Roots aren’t generally thought of as the most sophisticated of vegetables. They tend to be used as culinary workhorses, the stuff of hearty stocks, stews and soups. But turn them into a silky purée to serve with scallops and suddenly they seem rather glamorous.
Celeriac, jerusalem artichokes and parsnips are key players for this earthy kind of surf and turf, but there are also Scottish-inspired recipes that pair the scallops with swede (or neeps, as they are known north of the border) and a scattering of crumbled black pudding or haggis, which brings a peppery spicing to the dish. In fact, a bit of spice is often what is needed to tie the roots and shellfish together. In this recipe, it comes in the form of a curry-inflected butter.
For the curry butter:
75g salted butter, softened
1 tsp medium curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
2 pinches chilli flakes
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Juice ½ lime
2 pinches sea salt
For the celeriac and scallops:
1 large celeriac, about 1kg, peeled and cut into 1.5cm chunks
Fine sea salt and black pepper
1 ½ cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
A generous ¼ tsp ground ginger
3 tbsp butter
4 tbsp double cream
2 tbsp vegetable oil
12 king scallops, with their roes if possible
A handful coriander leaves, for scattering
Beat together the ingredients for the curry butter until well combined and put to one side.
Put the celeriac and garlic in a saucepan and cover with water. Add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife. Drain, keeping back a few tbsp of the cooking water, and place in a liquidiser (or a bowl if using a hand blender). Add the butter, cream, ground ginger, ¾ tsp salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Blitz until smooth, adding a splash of the cooking water if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spread a few tablespoons of purée in the middle of 4 hot plates and leave somewhere warm.
Pat the scallops dry with a bit of kitchen paper and season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. When it’s hot, add the scallops and cook, without moving, for 3-4 minutes or until crusted with golden brown underneath. Turn them over, add the curry butter and cook for 1-2 minutes more, basting the scallops with the butter as it melts. Don’t overdo them or they will be rubbery. They should be slightly springy to the touch and just warm in the centre.
Arrange 3 scallops on top of each plate of purée, then spoon the hot butter over the top (give it a little longer in the pan if it hasn’t quite melted). Finish with a sprinkle of extra coriander leaves.
Lucas Hollweg is an award-winning food writer, cookbook author and cook. A former Sunday Times journalist and cookery columnist, he writes for a wide range of food publications. His most recent book is Good Things to Eat.