Pan-fried scallops with cauliflower puree, capers & lemon

This recipe works well with any seafood you like: squid, scallops, prawns or white-fleshed fish. You can also use carrot, parsnip or a potato purée instead of the cauliflower.


  • 12 large fresh scallops
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp salted baby capers, thoroughly rinsed
  • zest of ½ lemon

  • For the cauliflower purée
  • ½ a cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ½ brown onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1¼ cups white chicken stock (check gluten-free if required)
  • About 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil


For the purée, remove any leaves from the cauliflower and discard. Chop cauliflower into small pieces.

Heat the olive oil and the butter in a medium saucepan until the butter foams, then add the onion, garlic and a little sea salt. Stir over low heat until onion is soft but not coloured, about 10 minutes.

Add cauliflower pieces and chicken stock and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed (be careful not to catch the cauliflower on the base of the pan).

Drain any excess liquid, then transfer mixture to a food processor. Process until very smooth. Then, with the motor still operating, very slowly add the lemon juice and oil in a thin stream until combined. This will lighten the purée. Season with sea salt and pepper and return to the saucepan. Keep warm on a very low heat while preparing the scallops.

Pat scallops dry with paper towel. Season with salt and pepper. Heat butter in a large frying pan on a high heat. When the butter starts to foam, stir constantly until the colour turns light brown. Add the scallops and pan fry for 1 or 2 minutes on each side or until golden, but not cooked all the way through. Add capers and remove from the heat.

Divide the purée between four plates. Place three scallops on each, then drizzle with the burnt butter and caper sauce. Finish with lemon zest, a little sea salt and a good grind of pepper.

Serve immediately.

NOTES: Want something to drink?
Try the Domäne Wachau Terrassen Federspiel Grüner Veltliner, 2013, Wachau, Austria.

The variety most closely associated with Austria, grüner veltliner is a versatile grape that works with myriad flavours. On the nose it exhibits lychee, apple and white pepper, while its spiciness and acidity make for a lovely finish.

First published in the Good Weekend.