Seared scallops with cauliflower purée, cumin velouté and ras el hanout caramel

15 November 2006
Seared scallops with cauliflower purée, cumin velouté and ras el hanout caramel

(Serves 6)

For the seared scallops 9 extra-large hand-dived scallops
50ml olive oil
50g unsalted butter

For the ras el hanout caramel 200g caster sugar
2tbs water
3 pinches of ras el hanout spice mix

For the cauliflower purée 1 medium cauliflower
125g unsalted butter

For the cumin velouté 30g cumin seeds
250ml fish stock
200ml milk
150ml double cream
2g powdered lecithin
A little lemon juice, if needed

To garnish 3 medium cauliflower florets, thinly sliced
1 Granny Smith apple, cut into matchsticks
1 punnet of pea shoots

Method To prepare the scallops, remove and discard the scallop skirt and the orange roe, leaving only the pure white part. Remove any grit. Cut each scallop horizontally in half to give you 18 discs. Place on a damp cloth on a tray, cover and leave in the fridge. Remove five minutes before needed.

To make the ras el hanout caramel, put the sugar and water in a small, heavy-based saucepan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the temperature and boil, without stirring, until a golden caramel has been obtained; it should be the colour of teak. Have a baking tray lined with baking parchment, a rolling pin and another sheet of baking parchment ready. As soon as the caramel is the correct colour, pour it on to the lined tray and sprinkle immediately with ras el hanout. Place the other sheet of paper on top and carefully roll out the caramel through the paper until very thin. Allow to set hard, then break into pieces; approximately the same size as the cauliflower slices for garnish.

To prepare the cauliflower purée, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Trim the cauliflower, discarding all the green and the major part of the stalk. Divide it into small florets, place in a sealable cooking bag, add the butter and some salt and pepper and seal, expelling as much air as possible. Place the bag in the water and cook for 30-40 minutes until the cauliflower is very soft. Remove the bag and empty the contents into a blender. Blend until smooth, then check the seasoning.

Alternatively, if you do not have a cooking bag, place the cauliflower florets in a saucepan with 250ml milk, bring to the boil, then cover and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, until the cauliflower is very tender. Drain, reserving the milk. Place in a blender, add 50g butter and blend until smooth, adding a little of the reserved milk if it's too thick.

In both cases, if the purée is too thick, add a little milk. If it's too thin, return it to a pan and cook gently until thick enough to hold its shape.

For the cumin velouté, put the cumin seeds in a heavy-based saucepan and heat until they pop and give off a pleasant scent. Add fish stock and simmer until reduced by a third. Add milk and cream and simmer for three to four minutes. Whisk in the lecithin and two tablespoons of the cauliflower purée. Season to taste, adding a little lemon juice if necessary, then pass through a fine sieve. Keep warm until needed.

Season the scallops with salt and pepper. Heat a large, heavy-based frying pan. When you feel the heat coming off it, put half the olive oil in it, then half the scallops. Cook for 30 seconds over a medium-high heat, then add half the butter. Cook for a further 30-60 seconds until golden underneath. Turn and cook for about one minute. Transfer to a warm plate, wipe out the pan with kitchen paper and repeat with the remaining scallops. When all are cooked, season again.

To serve, place a little streak of cauliflower purée on either side of each serving plate. In the middle, arrange a piece of scallop, a slice of raw cauliflower and a piece of caramel. Repeat using three pieces of scallop for each portion. Carefully lay the apple matchsticks on top and then the pea shoots. Froth the cumin sauce with a stick blender and pour it over the scallops.

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