It’s lovely to have my good friend Linda to stay for a few days and knowing she prefers fish to meat, I decided to cook some salmon last night. Knowing also she’s a fan of Ottolenghi’s recipes I took another look at Ottolenghi the Cookbook from which I cooked a great chicken dish last week. I found another hazelnut recipe and while it might be rather unadventurous of me to cook another dish containing hazelnuts so soon, I do have rather a lot of lovely organic hazelnuts to use up! Salmon can take quite strong flavours, indeed I’ve had it as a curry in Indian restaurants or spiced up in Thai restaurants. And this salsa was a bit different to ones I’d made before.
I made the salsa early in the day so that when it came to suppertime, doing the last-minute cooking wouldn’t take very long. I cut 2 romano red peppers in half, removed the seeds, drizzled over a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, seasoned with a little salt and pepper and put them in a 220C/180 Fan oven for about 20-25 minutes, until cooked through and soft and the edges slightly charred. At the same time put 50g hazelnuts with skins in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and when cool enough to handle, rub the skins off with your fingers.
Transfer the peppers to a bowl with the juice and cover in cling film and put in the fridge to cool. Once they’re cool, break off the stem end and then peel back the skin. It should come off very easily. Then chop the skinned peppers into small pieces and put in a bowl.
Also roughly chop the hazelnuts and add to the bowl. Then add 4 tablespoons olive oil, 8g chopped chives (Ottolenghi added 15g but that’s a lot and I didn’t have that much on my little plant!), 1 crushed garlic clove, juice and grated zest 1 lemon and 2 tablespoons cider vinegar. Mix together. At this point I tasted, added salt and pepper and tasted again but thought it a bit sharp (I’d thought the ratio of oil to lemon juice plus vinegar might be a bit much), but I didn’t want to add a lot more oil and make the salsa runnier. So I added a tablespoon of runny honey. I then took out half the salsa and blitzed it with a hand blender for a few seconds – not so it was completely combined but enough to make it thicker. I then put it back with the other half and thus I had a thicker salsa to spoon over my salmon. I then put it in the fridge until it was time to cook supper.
I decided to serve the meal with some barley couscous – it was the first time I’d bought this but it seems a great idea if one wants to avoid eating too much wheat. Especially for someone like me who eats a lot of bread and pasta. I seasoned the couscous with a few currants, a little cinnamon and dried mint and squeeze of lemon juice.
Following Ottolenghi’s instructions, I brushed olive oil over the salmon fillets and seasoned. I then heated the griddle till very hot then seared the salmon, flesh side down, for about 3 minutes. I then transferred them to an ovenproof dish, flesh side up, and put in the oven (200C/180 Fan) for about 8 minutes. Timing depends on the size of your salmon but you want them to remain a little pink in the middle so they are moist and succulent.
Serve up with some of the salsa spooned over the top – I put the rest in a bowl on the table. I spooned some of the couscous at the side and a green salad in a separate bowl.
It was very good. The salmon was perfectly cooked and soft and moist, the salsa added a tangy bite with a nice occasional crunch from the nuts. It didn’t quite have the ‘wow’ factor of last week’s chicken but it was still delicious and a great and different way to serve salmon.