Skye Gyngell: Scallops with white polenta and chilli oil

Serves 4
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Although one whole chilli is used in this recipe, the seeds are removed and the flesh very finely diced – the result is the gentlest possible heat and a surprising sweetness, and the soft creamy white polenta also provides a lovely foil for any unexpected heat.

Allow five scallops per person as a main course or three if you are intending to eat something afterwards. Once cooked, polenta will sit happily in a bain-marie for a couple of hours – so you can make it well in advance.

For the chilli oil

1 red chilli
Sea salt and a little freshly ground black pepper
120ml/4fl oz extra-virgin olive oil

For the polenta

1,000ml/35fl oz pints water
The zest of one unwaxed lemon
250g/8oz white polenta
40g/2oz unsalted butter
Sea salt and ground black pepper

For the scallops

20 scallops, roe intact, little muscle with black thread running through it removed
25ml/1fl oz olive oil
4 wedges of lemon, to serve

Using a small sharp knife, cut the chilli in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Cut it into the finest possible strips then cut across to create tiny cubes. Place in a bowl, add a small pinch of salt and pour over the olive oil. Set aside.

For the polenta, pour the water into a saucepan and bring to a vigorous boil. Add the lemon zest and pour in the polenta in one steady stream. Turn the heat down a little and stir constantly until the polenta begins to thicken and cook through – this will take 15-20 minutes. Whisk in the butter and season generously with salt and pepper. Pour into a clean bowl and place, covered, in a bain-marie until you are ready to serve.

For the scallops, season each one generously with salt and pepper. Place a non-stick pan over a medium to high heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the scallops and cook for one minute, before turning and cooking on the other side for 40 seconds.

To serve, spoon the polenta into bowls, arrange the scallops on top and finish with the chilli oil. Serve at once with a wedge of lemon.