Ah, here it is! The shyest guest on our regional “berry parade VIP” list: the humble Blackcurrant. To me, admittedly a roaring menace to our region’s supply of blackcurrants, it actually feels like their season is getting shorter each year, but well… all the more reason to make every single berry count, right~?
Unlike last year, where the start of the blackcurrant season and the end of it unfortunately hit us on the same day – thanks to it also being the hottest day of the year – there’s a somewhat steady, yet very small, supply of these delicious black gems popping up on the Farmer’s Market. Since, as the lady behind one of the fruit stands at the Farmer’s Market put it: ”They’re not everybody’s cup of tea…” I struck gold twice in a row now, and I found myself in the rare position of being able to play around with a couple of recipes involving blackcurrants for once! Aaaand, as you have probably deduced already, today’s dish is the winner of that particularly delicious string of kitchen experiments~! A light and summery dinner starter to for 4, a fingerfoody morsel-on-a-spoon for 12 or a light and extremely decadent lunch for 2:
The Cauliflower & Fennel Purée
½ Head of Cauliflower
Alt: About 300g Frozen Cauliflower Fleurets
1 Small Fennel Bulb, cleaned and the outer layer removed – keep the greens for decorative dots on the I
1 Leafy Sprig of Tarragon, leaves picked and finely chopped
Alt: 1 Tsp Dried Tarragon
1 Spring Onion, white and light green parts only
1 Tbsp Pastis
1 Tbsp Ghee
1 Pinch each of freshly cracked Mixed or White Peppercorns, Hot Chili Flakes, Vanilla Salt and Nutmeg
1 Splash of Lemon Juice
Opt: 1-2 Tsp of Brown/Nut Butter or 1 Tbsp Crème Légère
Opt: 100-200ml Chicken or Fish Stock – add a splash to the pot while the fennel is cooking, add the rest only if you need it for consistency after a first whizz or two. Don’t add any stock in case you’ve took a frozen-veg shortcut, they contain a ton of water.
1) Snip bite-sized fleurets off the cauliflower and peel the stem before thinly slicing it into thin disks.
2) Pick a few decorative fleurets and pop them into a sieve.
3) Bring a pot filled with lightly salted water to a boil on high heat.
4) Add the “normal” cauliflower fleurets and the fennel bits to the water and pop the sieve holding the eye candy (and 1 or 2 similar-sized bite-test subjects) on top – make sure the deco fleurets are beneath the water’s surface as well.
5) Once the deco bits are tender with just a bit of bite to them, 2-3 mins should be enough for that, remove the sieve and douse them with ice cold water to stop the cooking process.
6) Allow the rest to simmer away for 1-2 mins longer, then drain off the water.
7) Pop the veggies back into the pot after giving them a good shake to remove any excess water and fold in the spring onions, giving them a few blinks to warm up.
8) Add the Pastis, lemon juice, clarified butter/Ghee, vanilla salt, chilli flakes, white pepper and nutmeg.
9) Finely whizz the lot with a stick blender and adjust the seasoning and/or consistency if necessary. Add more butter or a dollop of Crème Légère if you’d like to add more creamyness to the deal.
10) Keep the purèe warm and breeze through the scallop prep~ It’s almost yum’o’clock~!
The Scallops & Blackcurrant Sauce
1 Tbsp Clarified Butter or Ghee
4 Tbsp freshly stemmed Blackcurrants – stemming blackcurrants 101: grab them by the thick end of the stem and gently pull them through the tongs of a fork, basically combing off the berries in the blink of an eye~ Don’t do this too far in advance, they might “bleed” out over time.
2 Tbsp Crème de Cassis
½ Lemon, Zest only
1 Tbsp Brown/Nut Butter
1 Pinch each of Nutmeg and freshly grated Tonka Bean
1 Pinch of Vanilla Salt
1 Pinch of Chilli Flakes
Sea Salt and freshly cracked Pepper to taste
1) Add the ghee to a large and wide pan sitting on medium heat once it’s reached its peak temperature.
2) Generously season the scallops with pepper and vanilla salt and sear them for 30 sec-1 min depending on their thickness on each side.
3) Transfer the pretties onto a warmed plate lined with a layer of paper towels and deglaze the pan with the Crème de Cassis, then turn off the heat.
4) Stir in the brown butter, lemon zest, nutmeg, tonka bean, chili flakes, salt and pepper.
5) Gently swirl the blackcurrants in the resulting warm and aromatic liquids for 1 min.
6) Time to plate up!
Assembling the Dish
A Handful of Mixed Lettuce Leaves, Wild Herbs or Micro Herbs
The Deco Veggies
12 Small Sprigs of Blackcurrants – 3-4 berries per sprig will do
Opt: 12 Tapas/Serving Spoons
1) Place a dollop of the purée on each plate and, after seizing up your scallops, spread out the piles a little to accommodate the scallops.
2) Cozy a pretty pile of greens and veggies next to each purée bed.
3) Dot the purée with equal amounts of the sauce and 3-6 scallops each – depending on whether you’re plating up for a sumptuous dinner for 4 or a decadent lunch for 2~
4) Place a sprig of blackcurrants on each scallop.
5) Alternatively, should you be going down the spoony road, neatly stack everything – 1 bite-size of everything, that is – on each of your tapas spoons and decorate the serving platter with the greens and remaining berries.
6) Scatter a few fennel greens on top and get ready to eat~!