Almond-crusted scallops

These plump scallops are inspired by North African flavors, and their gentle sweetness is highlighted by the dates, nutty almonds and subtle fragrance of mahlab. The sharpness of the preserved lemons and verjuice works well to balance it out, and the buttery goodness is always welcome. You can find this dish with the Palestinians and by some Israels from North African decent.

Almond-crusted scallops
Almond-crusted scallops

This recipe is easy and fast to make (it takes only 20 minutes) and you are ready to go.

  • 100g/3½oz/1 cup ground almonds
  • 1 tsp ground mahlab (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 16 scallops, about 500g/1lb 2oz
  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 120ml/4fl oz/½ cup verjuice, or lime juice to taste
  • 100g/3½oz/7 tbsp cold salted butter, diced
  • 2 wedges of Preserved Lemon, rind rinsed and finely chopped
  • 60g/2¼oz/⅓ cup dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • sea salt
  • Couscous, to serve
  • Fattoush Salad, Undressed Herb Salad or Shaved
  • Beetroot, Radish & Grapefruit Salad, to serve

Almond-crusted scallops
Almond-crusted scallops
  1. Put the ground almonds and mahlab, if using, in a large mixing bowl, mix well and season to taste with salt.
  2. Break the eggs into another bowl and whisk well. Toss the scallops in the whisked egg to coat.
  3. Remove them from the egg, shaking them to remove any excess egg, then add them to the ground almond mixture. Toss again to coat.
  4. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat (the oil should not be so hot that it’s smoking) and sear the scallops for about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown and just cooked through (the flesh will be bouncy when pushed, and if you slice one open, it will be a soft pinky-white).
  5. A good scallop should be tender and juicy so it’s important not to overcook them.
  6. Remove the scallops from the pan and transfer them to a warmed plate and cover.
  7. Add the verjuice to the pan, scraping up the brown bits and simmering the mixture for 2–3 minutes to reduce it.
  8. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the butter one piece at a time, whisking to create a creamy consistency.
  9. Increase the heat to medium-high and let the butter foam as you continue to whisk.
  10. Once it starts to turn brown, quickly remove the pan from the heat before it begins to burn.
  11. Add the scallops, preserved lemon and dates and toss well to coat. Serve with Couscous and one or more of the salads.
Almond-crusted scallops
Almond-crusted scallops
Almond-crusted scallops
Almond-crusted scallops
Almond-crusted scallops
Almond-crusted scallops

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