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Pan-fried Scallops, Cauliflower & Scallop Roe Purée, Curry Oil

Updated: Oct 30, 2021

"Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education."

Mark Twain (1894)

Move from France to England, open a restaurant in which you serve your mother's food and be awarded two Michelin stars for ever. Easy! Right? Well it's what Raymond Blanc OBE did and I'm sure it wasn't easy. And I'm sure that's not quite how it went, but it's roughly the story. This recipe found inspiration in one of Chef Blanc's, "Scallops, Cauliflower Purée and Curry Oil Recipe".

As with brown crab meat versus white crab meat, the orange corals, or roes, of a scallop are not quite as prized as their white muscle. Just the fact that supermarkets keenly stock packs of exclusively white scallop meat adequately tells the story. In truth, I personally am not as keen on the corals as I am the white muscle. But as with brown crab meat I find this a source of motivation to think up ways to use the less popular part of the product, a bit like what is now called "the cheap cuts" of meat, something of a misnomer given how it was popularised in the late "Naughties" and started fetching handsome prices in the restaurants of those who championed it.

With scallops so frequently being served with vegetable purées, cauliflower and celeriac being two examples, I was curious to experiment with incorporating the scallop roe into the purée and I have to say the result is sensational, and really simple to achieve. Just pan-fry the roes very briefly in olive oil and blitz along with the vegetable, in this case cauliflower, which still enjoys seasonal availability in May.

The rest of the dish is something of a pick 'n' mix of ideas from Chef Blanc's recipe. I wanted a sauce of some sort and his curry oil was inspiring - scallops love a touch of curry flavouring. However, I wanted slightly more aniseed notes in my creation than the flavours in Chef Blanc's recipe so I chose star anise, fennel seeds and tarragon. Equally appreciative of a touch of curry spice is cauliflower and the purée is essentially his recipe but for the addition of the scallop roes and my insistence that white pepper and a touch of nutmeg add immeasurably to the seasoning of a purée like this.

The end result, I have to say, is something I am really pleased with. And because the only ingredient that needs last minute cooking is the scallops, I think this is a real dinner-party winner as a starter or fish course.

If serving this dish at a dinner party, for convenience, the curry oil can be made several days ahead. Equally the cauliflower and scallop roe purée can be made up to a day ahead, fridged and reheated in a saucepan when ready to serve.

The ingredient quantities for the curry oil makes more than is likely to be needed for this dish but, if kept in an air-tight jar then, for several days hence, fish fillets can be coated/marinated with any extra and pan-fried or grilled. Any good quality curry powder is fine to make this curry oil. Raymond Blanc suggests a "Madras" curry powder (something that nobody in Chennai, formerly Madras, would recognise), and who am I to argue?

As is always the case, it is vital to bring the scallops to room temperature before cooking them. An hour out of the fridge ahead of time is perfect.

Pan-fried Scallops, Cauliflower & Scallop Roe Purée, Curry Oil

Ingredients (serves 4 as a starter or fish course)

12 scallops (white and orange parts), shucked

125g cauliflower, cut into 1" florets

15g unsalted butter

Sea salt

125ml whole milk

Lemon juice

Ground white pepper

Pinch of grated nutmeg (optional, but recommended)

1 tbsp olive oil

2-3 handfuls of baby salad leaves

Chopped chives, to garnish (optional)

For the curry oil:

1 tsp curry powder (see recipe intro)

100ml extra virgin olive oil, warmed (to approx. 60°C)

1 star anise

½ tsp fennel seeds

1 tbsp tarragon leaves

½ lime, grated zest and juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Make the curry oil ahead. Toast the curry powder in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for 5 mins, stirring occasionally and taking care that they do not burn. Meanwhile, lightly crush the star anise and fennel seeds using a pestle and mortar. Combine the toasted curry powder, the crushed spices, the lime zest with the warmed olive oil. With the pestle and mortar, lightly bash the tarragon leaves and add this to the oil. Stir everything well and leave to infuse for 1 hour or longer. After this time, pass the oil through a fine sieve (lined with muslin for a less grainy result) and season to taste with the lime juice, some pepper and a good few pinches of salt.

  2. Separate the orange roe from the white muscle of the scallops. Wipe clean the white parts with kitchen paper and set aside between 2 sheets of kitchen paper.

  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan and when it starts to foam add the cauliflower florets and a pinch or two of sea salt. Sweat the cauliflower for 3 mins, add the milk, bringing it to a gentle boil then let simmer for 10 mins (or until the cauliflower is tender). Meanwhile gently fry the scallop roes in ½ tbsp of the olive oil for about 1 min in total. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cauliflower to a blender and add the fried scallop roes. Blitz the cauliflower and roes to a purée using only as much of the cauliflower's cooking liquor as required to achieve a smooth result. Season with salt, white pepper, lemon juice and nutmeg (if using). For an extra smooth purée, pass through a fine sieve.

  4. In a frying pan heat the remaining ½ tbsp olive oil. Season the scallops with salt and then fry them over a medium-high heat (they should be gently sizzling) for 1½ mins on one side and ½ min on the other. Transfer to a plate to rest for 1 min.

  5. Spoon three circles of the cauliflower and roe purée onto each serving plate, place the scallops on top, then arrange the baby salad leaves around. Drizzle a teaspoon or two of the curry oil over and garnish with chopped chives if using. Serve straight away.


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