Thursday, 2 October 2014

Seared Scallops with Cauliflower

I do love seafood and as I have stated before, I believe that it is the ultimate in fast food being easy to prepare and incredibly quick to cook. Take scallops for example; depending on their size, they only need a couple of minutes in a hot pan and they are ready to be served. It’s been quite a while since I last cooked scallops at home, but I managed to get my hands on some beautifully fresh ones, so decided to cook some up. I absolutely love them quickly pan-fried, but scallops can also be baked, poached steamed or if exceedingly fresh can be served raw in a tartare or ceviche.

Scallops have a natural sweetness and when quickly fried in a very hot pan the natural sugars quickly caramelize and take on an almost nutty flavour. It’s for this reason that rather than sauté them gently, you need to preheat your pan until it is burning hot. Add the scallops and let them fry, without moving them for 1 minute before flipping them over and allowing them to finish cooking on the other side. The key thing is not to overcook them because they take on a rubbery texture which is not pleasant to eat.

This is an incredibly simple dish and perfect for serving as a starter or as a light lunch. I’m not going to pretend that I have unearthed some new-fangled way of serving scallops; pairing them with cauliflower is one of those classic taste combinations. I have puréed the cauliflower but have also charred some thin slices of it in a hot pan to create a contrast of textures.

Both scallops and cauliflower have a natural sweetness and as such, and also in order to create a more balanced dish, I think that it is important to add a good squeeze of lemon juice to the scallops just as they are finishing cooking in the pan. I find that the acidity cuts through the sweetness and the overall richness of the dish.

The cauliflower purée can be made in advance and heated up just before serving whilst you are cooking the scallops. This really is a beautiful tasting dish and incredibly quick to prepare.


Cauliflower Purée:
50g butter
500g cauliflower, broken into small florets
1 small onion, peeled but left whole and studded with 5 cloves
2 bay leaves
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Enough milk to just cover the cauliflower in the saucepan
To finish:
12 scallops
Flavourless vegetable oil
Knob of butter
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper


Cauliflower purée:
1. Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan and then add the cauliflower florets, reserving 3 or 4 for slicing and charring later. Sweat the cauliflower in the butter for 5 minutes, turning occasionally until it begins to soften, but do not allow it to colour.
2. Add the clove studded onion, the bay leaves and add enough milk to just cover the cauliflower. Season well and bring to the boil over a moderate heat. Once the mixture is bubbling reduce the heat and allow to simmer uncovered for about 12-15 minutes until the cauliflower is soft.
3. Using a slotted spoon remove the cauliflower from the saucepan and purée in a blender, adding a little of the warm milk to thin it if the purée is too thick. Pass the purée through a sieve into a small clean saucepan. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Set aside but keep warm while you cook the scallops and make the charred cauliflower.
Charred cauliflower:
4. Take the reserved cauliflower florets and cut them from top to bottom in thin slices about 3mm thick. Set aside.
5. Heat a very tiny amount of vegetable oil in a small frying pan until very hot. Add the cauliflower slices and heat for about I minute ion each side until the cauliflower takes on a slightly charred look. Remove and set aside.
To cook the scallops:
6. Heat a little flavourless vegetable oil in a large frying pan until very hot. Add the scallops to the pan and then add the butter. Allow the scallops to cook for about 1 minute without moving them and then flip them over so that they can cook on the other side. Cook for another minute. They should be beautifully caramelized on both sides. Add a generous squeeze of lemon juice and season well. Remove from the pan and serve 3 scallops per portion with the cauliflower purée and the charred cauliflower. (Note: this recipe makes more cauliflower purée than you will need but if you thin down the remaining puree with a little vegetable stock it makes a fabulously tasty soup).
Serves 4.