From a very young age, one of Neven's favourite pastimes was to shadow his mother in the kitchen, watching her cook; his pastime soon became ...
for the scallops:
12 king-sized scallops (removed from shells and cleaned)
sunflower oil (for cooking)
juice of ½ lemon
maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
mixed salad leaves dressed with french vinaigrette, to serve
for the sauce vierge:
1 tblsp lemon oil
1 small red onion (peeled and finely diced)
1 small roasted red pepper (from a jar is fine, finely diced)
1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
5 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp snipped chives
1 tsp chopped basil
This simple dish uses only the creamy white part of the scallops, but don't let the corals, or roe as they are also known, go to waste. In the restaurant we blend them with butter and herbs to make a flavoured butter that is delicious with any type of seafood or melted on to a roasted fish fillet. The roe butter will keep in the fridge for up to a week or for a month in the freezer in an airtight plastic container. The sauce vierge will keep up to a week in the fridge in a sealed container.
To prepare the sauce, warm the lemon oil in a small saucepan. Add the onion and roasted pepper and gently fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in the balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, then add the lemon zest and caster sugar. Cook for another 2–3 minutes until bubbling and warmed through. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the chopped herbs. Keep warm over a very low heat.
Meanwhile, pat the scallops dry with kitchen paper. Detach the corals and set aside to make flavoured butter, if you wish.
Heat a large frying pan until it is quite hot. Add a thin film of sunflower oil to the pan, season the scallops, then add them to the pan (do this in batches if necessary) and sear over a high heat for 1 ½ minutes on each side or until richly browned and crispy. Transfer the cooked scallops to a plate and add a squeeze of lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, spoon a quarter of the sauce vierge around the edge of a small serving plate and place three scallops in the centre of the plate. Plate up the remaining sauce and scallops in the same way. Top each one with a small pile of salad leaves.