Caramelised scallops on cauliflower purée with pancetta
For the brown butter breadcrumbs
For the cauliflower purée
- 25g/1oz butter
- 1 small head cauliflower (about 750g/1lb 10oz before trimming), cut into small florets
- 200ml/7fl oz full-fat milk
- 100ml/3½fl oz single cream
For the chive oil
For the pancetta and scallops
For the brown butter breadcrumbs, put the butter in a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and cook until it starts to turn golden-brown. Add the breadcrumbs and, keeping them moving in the pan, cook for 1-2 minutes, or until crisp and golden-brown. Tip onto a plate lined with kitchen towel and set aside. Wipe the pan out with kitchen towel and set aside.
For the cauliflower purée, melt the butter in a large pan over a low to medium heat and add the cauliflower florets. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring regularly until they are just beginning to colour.
Add the milk and cream, season well with salt and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and simmer gently for 8-12 minutes, depending on their size, or until the cauliflower is really soft.
While the cauliflower is cooking, make the chive oil. Reserve eight chive sticks for serving and then put the remaining chives in a small, wide bowl and pour over enough boiling water (from the kettle) to cover. Leave for 20 seconds.
Drain and run the chives under the cold tap for 20 seconds or so to refresh and stop them from cooking. This will ensure they stay nice and bright green rather than turning an icky brown. Drain well, squeeze them dry and pop into a mini-blender (or tall jug if using a stick blender). Add the oil and a little salt and blitz for 1-2 minutes, or until the chives are chopped as small as they will go.
For the pancetta, return the pan used for the breadcrumbs to a medium to high heat and add a little oil. Add the pancetta slices in a single layer and fry for two minutes each side until crisp and golden-brown. Remove from the heat and transfer the pancetta to a plate lined with kitchen towel to drain. If the pan has become quite dirty from frying the pancetta, then drain off the residual fat and wipe it out with kitchen paper. Otherwise, leave the fat in the pan and set aside.
Once the cauliflower is cooked, drain it really well, transfer it to a blender and blend until really smooth. Season to taste with some salt and pepper. Set aside, keeping it warm.
Return the frying pan to a high heat. If you have had to drain off the pancetta fat, add more oil. Otherwise you should have enough fat there to cook the scallops. Pat the scallops dry with kitchen paper and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Add the scallops to the pan and cook them, without moving them, for about two minutes.
Meanwhile, to keep you from moving the scallops, prepare four warm plates for serving. Spoon three dollops of the hot cauliflower purée in a straight line across the centre of each plate. Spoon drops or a squiggle of the chive oil over or around to decorate. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs.
The scallops should now be really nice and brown on their bottoms. Flip them over and cook for a further two minutes. Place each one on top of each spoonful of the purée. Snap each piece of pancetta in half and place a piece resting against each of the scallops. Trim the reserved chives and place two pieces on top of, or leaning against, the middle scallop on each plate and serve.
When buying scallops looks for those which have the MSC label (Marine Stewards Council), which will mean that the scallops are from a certified sustainable scallop fishery. The trick with scallops is to get the pan nice and hot - the scallops need good colour on them on both sides to really give extra flavor due to the caramelisation. They should be just cooked on the inside.