Disclaimer: In December 2019, I was commissioned to develop a variety of recipes for Dairy Australia. This is one of them, featuring the use of butter. Styling and photography by me. Both the recipe and the photo is now property of Dairy Australia, however I was given permission to publish them on my website. © Dairy Australia. All rights reserved.
Watching Heston Blumenthal, I’ve become a bit of a sucker for molecular gastronomy. I have no idea about it, but it blows my mind. So when we were told at culinary school that making agar pearls is molecular gastronomy, I got a little bit excited. Haha, it’s not as exciting as some of the amazing stuff Heston does, but I still managed to impress a few friends. And don’t they just look like caviar!?
Not being vegetarian, I’ve just always used gelatin when I wanted to set something. I knew agar existed, but hadn’t used it until we made pearls at school. It’s super easy to use! Agar melts at around 80°C and solidifies at around 40°C, so just heat it with a liquid of your choice, and once it cools, it will set. BAM! Did you know it’s made from seaweed? Pretty cool. You can pretty much use any liquid to make agar pearls, but for my recipe I used three types of vinegar.
Who wouldn’t feel all fancy when you start using a syringe or pipette in your home kitchen? But trust me, it works a treat with either of these devices. Make sure your oil is really really cold before you drop the agar liquid in. I’ve left my oil in the freezer for a good 4 hours. Once you start dropping in little droplets, they will very slowly fall through the oil to the bottom of the container, and form beautiful spheres on the way down. Make sure your friends watch. You might get a little “oh, so fancy” out of them 🙂
Acid and Fat
This recipe was developed to highlight butter. The parsnip puree is lovely velvety from lots of butter. The scallops are also fried in a little butter. That’s why I chose vinegar for the agar pearls. The acidity cuts nicely through the richness. It’s quite a fun texture experience, eating this dish. Smooth and silky puree, tender scallops, and the slippery sour vinegar pearls. Seems to work! And the good thing is, you can spend the money on good quality scallops, without having to worry about blowing the budget on expensive caviar!
Scallops on buttery parsnips with 'caviar'
- 1 litre vegetable oil
- 40 g + 40g unsalted butter
- 1 parsnip
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 140 ml full cream milk warm
- 18 scallops
- salt and pepper to season
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 100 ml vinegar balsamic, red or white
- 1 g agar agar
- 3 g caster sugar
- Pour vegetable oil into a tall jug and place into the freezer for at least an hour.
- Peel and dice parsnip. Melt 40g of butter in a small saucepan until it starts turning brown and smells nutty. Add 1 clove of garlic and parsnip and fry for 2 minutes before pouring over the, warm milk. Cook on low until the parsnip is soft. Blend in a food processor to a very smooth paste. Adjust seasoning.
- Bring vinegar to the boil. Mix agar agar with sugar and rain into the balsamic. Simmer for 3 minutes while continuously whisking. Remove from the heat and cool to 80°C. Use a syringe or pipette to drop tiny droplets of balsamic into the freezer cold oil. The droplets will slowly fall to the bottom of the jar, forming spheres resembling caviar. Strain through a fine sieve (keep the oil, it is still perfectly usable) and rinse the ‘caviar’ with cold water.
- Remove the outer muscle from the scallops. Pad dry and season with salt and pepper. In a hot frypan with peanut oil, sear the scallops for 2 minutes on each side until caramelised. Remove scallops from the pan, then melt 40g butter in the same pan together with the other clove of garlic and fry for 1 minute. Strain and set butter aside.
- To serve, spread a tablespoon of parsnip puree on each plate. Top with 3 scallops per plate and spoon ‘caviar’ on each scallop. Drizzle with melted butter from the pan and serve hot.
- Tip: Agar pearls can be made with any liquid. Lemon or passionfruit juice? White wine? Get creative!