Sea Scallops, Balsamic, Orange, Fennel

This recipe does require a little ‘slaving over a hot stove,’ but under a minute's worth, so even the laziest summer cook should still manage to cope! If you wanted to stick fervently to a no-stove policy, you could thinly slice the raw scallops, dress with a little lemon as well as the balsamic, and serve this dish as a carpaccio instead.


(Serves 4)

  • 12 trimmed scallops
  • 2 small oranges
  • 1 bulb of fennel
  • A few sprigs of dill
  • 2-3 tablespoons of good quality balsamic vinegar
  • ½ a lemon
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper


Remove the skin from the oranges by first slicing off the top and tail, then, with the orange positioned one cut side down to chopping board, use a small knife to remove the skin, top to bottom, following the natural lines of the fruit, (and taking care not to remove too much flesh in the process!). Once you’ve removed the skin, carefully slice each orange into six rounds, removing any seeds that you come across as you go.

Cut the base from the fennel bulb and, ideally using a mandolin, shave the entire head into thin rounds. Place the cut fennel into a large bowl, separating the layers of the rounds using your fingers as you do so. Then, squeeze over the juice of half a lemon, dress with a glug of olive oil, and season with some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss to combine.

Once the scallops hit the pan, they will cook very quickly, so it helps to have the serving plates well prepared ahead of time. To do this:

Place three rounds of orange on each plate, and then carefully arrange a few shavings of the dressed fennel around these.

Ready the dill sprigs for scattering by separating these into a number of much smaller fronds, then put aside until needed.

Prior to cooking, check that the scallops are well trimmed, (look for any tough connective tissue on the edge of each – this is the ‘foot’ of the scallop and it is not always removed by the fishmonger – simply slice off using a small knife if present). Now dress the trimmed scallops very lightly with a little olive oil, then ready large skillet (or frying pan) by placing it over a high flame to heat. Make sure to give the pan sufficient time to heat up – we want the scallops to sear and caramelise immediately on contact – a couple of minutes heating should do it.

Once hot, add all 12 scallops to the pan, and leave these to cook, without turning for between 30 seconds and 1 minute, depending on the size of the scallops. After this length of time, peek beneath one scallop, if it is still pale, continue cooking a little longer, if it is a nice carmelised brown, you are ready to flip them over and cook for the same amount of time on the other side.

In the final few seconds of cooking, splash in the balsamic vinegar, tossing the scallops to coat, before seasoning with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper and removing from the heat.

Position the scallops on your serving plates, each one atop a round of orange. Drizzle any extra balsamic sauce that is left in the pan directly over the scallops. Finish by scattering across the dill fronds that you picked and put aside earlier.