seared salmon with herbed roast potatoes

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A few months ago, I promised a recipe for my husband Aaron‘s favourite dinner: crispy-skinned salmon with roast potatoes and asparagus. It never happened; mostly as whenever I cooked it, the lighting in our kitchen was bad or it was just too late in the evening for photography (ah, food blogger problems).

However, seeing as we’ve had beautifully light, hot summer days over the past few weeks, you’re finally getting the promised salmon recipe. I hope that it’s worth the wait.

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Seared Salmon

Now, to start I should probably clarify that this is more of a ‘method’ than a recipe. Cooking fish is rather intuitive, so the object of this post is to help you gain familiarity with the process of cooking a perfectly pink, crisp-skinned piece of salmon. It’s definitely not as hard as one might think.

Start by choosing one piece of fish per person. I always choose a 150-175g (5-6 oz) skin-on salmon fillet (cut from the sides of the fish; often boneless) per person; look for fish that is bright, firm and ‘fresh-smelling’ (there should be no overly strong ‘fishy’ odour). Salmon steaks (cross-sections of the fish which always have a central piece of backbone) are also delicious, however you’ll have a harder time achieving a good piece of crispy skin.

Place your salmon skin-side up onto a clean chopping board. Take a good look at it in the light; if you can see any glistening scales, remove them by running your knife at a 90 degree angle against the skin. When the scales have detached, brush them off with a piece of kitchen paper. Run your finger against the grain of the fish to check for ‘pin bones‘, the small floating bones that occasionally remain embedded in the soft flesh after the fish is filleted. If you can feel the tips of any bones, remove them with a pair of tweezers and discard them.

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Season the skin well with sea salt flakes, then leave the fillets for a few minutes or until moisture pools on the skin (the salt helps to pull the moisture out of the skin). Blot the skin with paper towels until it’s as dry as possible, then add a little more sea salt. You’re now ready to cook.

Heat some good quality oil (with a high smoke point; I usually use Brookfarm cold-pressed macadamia oil however the more neutral grapeseed oil will perform equally well) in a heavy-based frying pan over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes or until hot (but not smoking).

Gently place the salmon fillets into the pan, skin-side down, leaving a 2cm gap between fillets (if you have more fish than this allows, you will need to cook your fillets in batches). Cook, skin-side down, for 4-5 minutes depending upon the thickness of your fish. You should see the colour rising on the side of the fillet; when it reaches about half of the way up, season the skinless side of the fillet with salt and pepper, then flip it over.

skinCook for another 3-4 minutes or until the fish easily flakes with a fork (if you’re testing the sides of the fillet with your fingers, it should still have a slight ‘spring’ to it… salmon is best served when it’s still slightly soft and pink in the centre).

Serve immediately, while the skin is still crispy*, with roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus or salad.

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* Note to food bloggers: do not leave the crispy-skinned salmon on a plate in a humid kitchen for ten minutes (whilst arranging, primping and photographing it) before serving it to your husband (sorry Aaron)

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Herbed Roasted Potatoes

  • 2 medium red or purple potatoes (200-250g) per person
  • olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, lightly bashed with the back of a knife
  • small bunch of rosemary, thyme and sage
  • smoked sea salt (I use Gewürzhaus Salish Alder smoked sea salt)
  • cracked black pepper

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (390 degrees f). Wash your potatoes and roughly dice them into 3 cm chunks, then place them into a pot of lightly salted water. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat.

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Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until just cooked (should be just tender when pierced with a fork). Drain well and leave for a few minutes until any remaining water evaporates. Shake your strainer to slightly roughen the surface of your potatoes, then sprinkle them with smoked sea salt and black pepper.

Pour about 2 tbsp oil into a large roasting pan with the garlic cloves and herbs . If you have a gas hob, place the pan over the heat until the herbs start to crackle; alternately, place the roasting pan into the oven for 5 minutes or until hot. Carefully tip the potatoes into the hot oil, toss and return the pan to the hot oven.

tatiesdoneRoast the potatoes for 30 minutes; turn and roast for another 30 minutes or until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels and add a little more salt if necessary. Serve with sour cream or aioli alongside the seared salmon with a green salad or some grilled asparagus.

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baba ghanouj

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If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’d be aware that I have a slight obsession with smoky, creamy baba ghanouj. It’s become a staple favourite for weeknight dinners, games nights, picnics and after work snacks. I’d almost go as far as saying that it’s replaced my hummus addiction, but… well, it hasn’t. Yet.

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lemonBaba ghanouj is a Levantine dish made from mashed aubergines mixed with olive oil, garlic, tahini and other seasonings. It’s eaten in various forms all over the Middle East as a starter, appetizer or side dish, occasionally topped with pomegranate molasses, mint, fruity olive oil or spiced tomatoes.

Though baba ghanouj is traditionally made with raw garlic, I recently tried it with roasted, sweet garlic cloves for a softer, more fragrant result. If you’re unaccustomed to eating raw garlic, I’d encourage you to try this method for a less in-your-face garlic sweetness: just splash a good amount of olive oil into a small pan, toss in some unpeeled garlic cloves and roast the lot on medium heat (180 degrees C/360 degrees f) for 15-20 minutes or until the cloves are softened and slightly golden. Squeeze the cloves from their skins before use (these roasted garlic cloves are also fantastic spread onto charred ciabatta with some sea salt, avocado slices and extra virgin olive oil. Yum).

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Despite the charring process, baba ghanouj is relatively easy to make. It takes about 30 minutes from start to finish and each second is completely worth the investment.

Try it next time you intend to make hummus as a smoky, creamy and delicious alternative. You’ll be glad that you did.

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dip4Baba Ghanouj

Makes about 2 cups

  • 2 medium aubergines (eggplant)
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • juice and zest of half a lemon (equivalent to about 1 tbsp juice)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed (roast prior to crushing for a milder garlic flavour)
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt, to taste
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (if roasting your garlic cloves, use the oil from the roasting pan)
  • 1/4 tsp toasted cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
  • to serve: extra virgin olive oil, za’atar, sumac or smoked paprika

Carefully grill the aubergines over an open gas flame, turning them with tongs until the skin is evenly blistered and the flesh is soft.

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Refrigerate or soak in cold water for ten minutes to cool.

Peel the blackened skin from the aubergines and place them into a bowl or colander. Leave them to drain for 20-30 minutes.

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When drained of fluid, chop coarsely and place into the bowl of a food processor.

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Pound lemon zest, chilli flakes and cumin in a mortar and pestle, then add to the food processor bowl with the remaining ingredients. Process until well combined and creamy.

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Taste and adjust flavours as required; you may wish to add extra tahini, lemon juice, chilli or salt.

Scoop the baba ghanouj into a serving bowl and make a small ‘well’ in the centre. Pour over some extra olive oil and sprinkle with za’atar, sumac or smoked paprika to serve.

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slow-roasted lamb with white wine, lemon and herbs

closeupreadyIt’s hard to believe that today marks the third day since our departure from the Australian Winter. Despite my moaning, I predominantly enjoy the cold nights and rainy days of the winter months. The icy chill perpetuates a desire for warm blankets, hot drinks and the best kind of comfort food: creamy mashed potato, spiced apple crumbles and hot buttered bread, dipped into thick pumpkin soup with shards of crisp pancetta.

lemonhebsSo, as we Australians will soon be progressing to salad days, ice-cream and cold beer, I thought I’d do a final homage to the beautiful winter-that-was: a recipe for my oft-mentioned slow-roasted lamb with garlic, rosemary, anchovies and lemon.

I’ve trialled many versions of this dish, ranging from foil sealed to uncovered, wet, dry, seasoned and marinated. This version achieves a melt-in-your-mouth-tender result every time, allowing the beauty of the meat to shine through whilst being gently complimented by sweet herbs and lemon.

anchovies anchovies2For those of you heading towards Autumn and Winter, I’d definitely recommend that you bookmark this recipe for cosy nights in front of the fire. It virtually takes care of itself; all you need to do is to place the lamb in the oven after lunch, and by dinnertime you’ll be beckoned by sweet fragrances of wine, herbs and slow-cooked lemon.

Our usual ritual is to accompany this dish with a bottle of great red wine, some crisp-roasted Royal blue or kipfler potatoes with lots of garlic and an array of vegetable dishes. At present, I’m continuing to indulge my long-standing obsession with Middle Eastern food, particularly Persian, Israeli and Turkish cuisine, so there’s been lots of cous cous, pickled and roasted beets, smoky babaghanouj, preserved lemon and braised celery.

closeupcornerThis is being further encouraged by my recent investment into Yotam Ottolenghi’s beautiful book series, ‘Plenty’ and ‘Jerusalem’. I’m excited, as I plan to share some recipes inspired by his vegetable collection over the Spring and Summer season. Watch this space.

ingredientsSlow-roasted Lamb with White Wine, Lemon and Herbs

Loosely adapted from ‘Dinner at Matt’s‘ by Matt Moran

  • 1 x 2 – 2.2kg bone-in lamb shoulder
  • 2 fresh, unwaxed lemons
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut into thick slivers
  • 6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled (extra)
  • 4 anchovies in oil, drained, each torn into 3 pieces
  • large handful of fresh herbs, I used rosemary (essential), thyme, oregano and sage
  • 150ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 300ml good-quality white wine
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (390 degrees f). Using a small, sharp knife, score a diamond pattern into the fat on the surface of the lamb shoulder, then make 10 -12 1cm-deep incisions. Take a sliver of garlic, a piece of anchovy and a few rosemary leaves; press them together to form a small bundle, then stuff the bundle into one of the 1cm-deep incisions. Repeat this process with the remaining garlic, rosemary and anchovy fillets.

meatmontScatter half of the remaining herbs and the unpeeled garlic cloves over the base of a large roasting tin. Place the meat on top, then pour over the olive oil and white wine. Rub some salt and pepper into the skin, then finely grate over the zest of one lemon (use your fingers to stuff some of the lemon zest into the incisions and the scored pattern in the skin).

Cut the two lemons into thick wedges and scatter these into the wine and olive oil around the meat. Place the extra herbs on top of the meat (don’t worry if some fall off into the braising liquid), then cover the tray completely with tinfoil.

meatreadyPlace the covered tray into the preheated oven. Immediately reduce the temperature to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f) and cook for one hour. Reduce temperature further to 150 degrees C (300 degrees f) and cook for another 3-4 hours, or until the meat falls off the bone.

Once cooked, remove the tray from the oven and leave the meat to rest (covered) for half an hour prior to serving.

lambpresentedsumacsalad As aforementioned, I usually serve this dish with potatoes or hot, fresh bread and a selection of vegetables or salads. Pictured are:

  1. Roasted beets in a lemony dressing of soured cream and yoghurt with pistachios, lemon rind, sumac and chopped fresh mint
  2. Bulgur salad with smoky eggplant, red and yellow peppers, roasted shallots, soft herbs, preserved lemon, currants and pistachios
  3. Persian feta, ripe cherry tomatoes, Lebanese cucumbers and herbs with sumac, lemon oil and za’atar

And yes, we ate the lemon wedges with the lamb. They become soft, sweet and delicious whilst slowly braising in the olive oil and wine… so, so good.thefat wineWe drank First Drop ‘Fat of the Land’ 2009 Ebenezer Shiraz from the Barossa Valley, South Australia. Delicious notes of blackened fruit and spice with soft tannins and a lingering mouthfeel. Perfect with rich, meaty lamb and soothing vegetable dishes.

Read a review here from Pinot Shop and another here from Vino Review (I like Josh, he’s cool).

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