29 November 2015

3.09 Seared Scallops w/ Saffron Risotto & Salsa – Advanced – Rice & Pasta

Every so often I get into a “cheffy” mood, and end up with recipes like this. I’m not really a seafood person, but occasionally I make exceptions.

This dish can either be a starter for 4 people, or a main for 2 people.


250g baby Roma tomatoes, deseeded and diced finely
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt

It might seem odd to start with the quickest and easiest element. I have presented this recipe in order of how each component should be made. The salsa needs time to sit and allow the flavours to mingle. The risotto takes approx. 30 minutes from beginning to end. The scallops take around 5 minutes altogether.

This is a very basic salsa which is just there to add some colour and acidity. I use baby Roma tomatoes mainly because it’s easier to cut something into small pieces if it’s already small to start with, but they also can sometimes have a bit more flavour than regular Roma tomatoes. You can also use cherry or grape tomatoes.


1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

2. Cover, and set aside until needed. (How’s that for Advanced?!)


1 leek, cleaned, trimmed and sliced into crescents
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
800ml vegetable stock, warm
100ml dry sherry
½ tsp saffron threads (or a good pinch)
¼ cup grated parmesan
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2 tbsp cream
Zest of ½ lemon
30g butter
Salt and pepper

Unlike most of my recipes, this is fairly traditional. It is fairly adaptable, just change the type of stock and experiment with different herbs and spices. Be warned, there is quite a lot of stirring involved!

Leeks have a milder flavour than onions, and they take less time to soften. If you want to swap the leeks for onions, there should be no real issue.

I use Arborio rice as it’s more readily available, but you can use any type of risotto rice you like (i.e. Carnaroli, etc.).

The stock can be fresh, powder, tablet, concentrate, out of a carton, it doesn’t matter to me. It just needs to be warm so it doesn’t change the temperature too much when you add it to the rice.

Sherry provides a deeper flavour than wine, but if you prefer to use white wine instead, go for it.

If you cannot find saffron threads… well I’m not really sure why you’d make this recipe. I’ve never used imitation saffron, but as far as I know it’s just a colour and not a flavour.


1. Add the saffron threads to the sherry and stir together, then place aside until needed. (This allows the colour to begin to seep out.)

2. In a pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and fry the leek and garlic with a pinch of salt until soft.

3. Add the rice to the pan and stir until it is coated in the butter.

4. Add the sherry and saffron threads and stir until mostly evaporated. (The colour does not change right away, but gradually changes as you continue with the recipe.)

5. Turn the pan down to medium-low and add a splash or ladle full of stock.

6. Stir the pot gently until the liquid has has almost all evaporated, then add another splash/ladle full of stock. (This will take 3-5 minutes.)

7. Repeat Step 6 until the last of the stock is gone. (Should take approx. 20-25 minutes for this to happen.)

8. Test a piece of rice to check whether it is cooked to your desired consistency. If necessary, add ½ cup of boiling water and stir until almost evaporated. (As with pasta, the grains of rice in a traditional risotto are meant to be al dente, which basically means they should still have a bit of bite – as a matter of face the translation of al dente is “to the tooth”. If you want your rice completely soft, then you’ll need to add more liquid and cook it for longer.)

9. In a small bowl or jug, whisk together the egg yolk, cream, parmesan, lemon zest and a pinch of pepper. (You can also add a pinch of salt if you like, but the stock has probably added enough salt already.)

10. Stir the egg mixture through the risotto until combined, then remove it from the heat, cover, and place it aside until assembling. (I wouldn’t recommend leaving it for more than 5 minutes.)


12 large scallops, roe removed
50g unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Cayenne Pepper

You can leave the roe on the scallops if you must, but it sort of grosses me out for some reason. Plus it wouldn’t look right with the way I serve it.

Sumac, for those that are still unfamiliar with it, is a middle-eastern spice that adds a hint of citrus tang. It goes really well with seafood and chicken.

I like the spice of cayenne with seafood also, but it can be very potent, so use as little or as much as you like. You can replace it with regular white or black pepper if you’re a bit unsure.


1. Rinse the scallops and pat dry on some kitchen towel.

2. Sprinkle some sumac, cayenne pepper and salt over the scallops. (However much or little is completely up to you. You don’t have to add any if you don’t want to.)

3. Heat the butter and oil in a pan over medium-high heat until bubbling.

4. Place the scallops into the bubbling butter/oil and fry for 30-45 seconds on each side, occasionally spooning some of the butter/oil over the top of each scallop.

5. Remove the scallops from the pan, and slice in half through the side. (You should now have 24 thin discs of scallop.)

6. Assemble the dish right away.


Baby basil leaves (optional)

When I say that the basil is optional, I kind of really mean it's totally necessary! Although it doesn't really add anything more that a bit of flavour and aesthetic appeal.

I suppose I’m being a bit fussy with this, but that’s what Advanced recipes are all about, right?

You could just throw it all on a plate, but if you’re already come this far…


1. Using a couple of stacked egg rings (or something similar), place a circle of risotto in the middle of each plate. (Not too little, not too much.)

2. Leave the rings in place and arrange 5-6 of the seared scallop halves on top of the risotto in a circle, overlapping slightly.

3. Remove the egg ring gently, so the risotto and scallops stay in place.

4. Drizzle some salsa around the outside of the risotto, and then a small amount on top of the scallops.

5. Place a basil leaf on top of the salsa in the centre of the scallops.

6. Serve immediately.

As I said, serves 2-4 people depending on whether it is a starter or a main.

A two-part video of this recipe is available - https://youtu.be/Cpnl6j0aqKM & https://youtu.be/kdZCnZ61ZTI.

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