Scallops with Asparagus and Fennel Cream,
road-tested by Janet Wynne Evans
This seasonal idea courtesy of our man at the stove in Croatia Robert Golic at Agrolaguna, wishes a fond farewell to scallops and an enthusiastic welcome to home-grown asparagus bringing them together with a zingy fennel puree. It's a slightly demanding list of ingredients for wine, but the clean lines and citrusy zip and concentrated fruit of malvazija cope admirably.
- 1 large fennel bulb
- A dash of tart orange juice
- about 75g butter
- 1 tbsp crème fraîche or similarly thick cream
- salt and freshly ground pepper (white is especially good here)
- 8 spears new-season British asparagus, woody ends snapped off
- 12 handsome scallops, skinned and corals removed
- finely chopped dill (optional)
Wipe the scallops with kitchen paper and leave to dry completely.
Put four plates to warm in a low oven.
Trim the fennel of roots and any bruised or brown exterior leaves. Reserve any fronds for decoration (if they are not pretty, wheel on the dill option). Roughly chop the flesh.
Bring a pan of water to the boil, add a pinch of salt and throw in the fennel. Boil until soft, about 20 minutes, drain well and let the steam die down completely before proceeding.
Transfer the fennel to a blender, food processor or mouli-légumes and blitz it adding just enough of the butter and cream to make a smooth puree. Add the orange juice very carefully - it's a subtle kick that's needed here and too much will argue with the wine (read more about this here). Season to taste. Put a generous splodge of the finished puree on each of the warmed plates and keep them warm.
Steam the asparagus for 4 minutes for a crunchy texture which works best here. Toss them lightly in a little of the butter and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Finally, season the scallops well with salt and pepper. You can cook them all at once but two batches will help prevent overcooking. Bring a non-stick pan up to heat on a brisk hob. Add half the remaining butter and let it foam and sizzle. Put six of the scallops in the pan and give them between a minute and 90 seconds on each side. They should be just cooked and nicely caramelised. Set them on one of the warmed plates while you repeat the process with the remaining scallops.
Arrange three scallops on each plate, atop the fennel puree. Put the asparagus spears on top, criss-cross fashion and dust the whole with the snipped fennel or dill fronds. Any buttery juices left in the pan may be spooned delicately around the plate
Serve at once with a glass of Vina Laguna Malvazija or pick another favourite Mediterranean-style fresh dry white, or even an invigorating fino sherry.