There was just a hint of Spring in my veg box this week. I got a medium box (less roots) and the courgettes, fennel and cime di rapa all reminded me of my allotment in a few months’ time. Along with the ramano peppers (which I could never hope to grow) and the sunny, but very cold morning, I could almost feel the promise of the warmer, longer days ahead.
I thought I would share a really quick and easy recipe this week. Often when I have been working all day (which for me of course means cooking) the last thing I feel like when I get home is prepping a whole lot of veg. But I am loathed to give the family processed food, especially when I have spent the day making sure someone else’s family eats well. This is a great recipe for using up lots of veg, which also keeps kids and adults happy alike and it is none other than “a bake”.
A “bake” really doesn’t conjure up a good image for me – vegetable bake, tuna bake, cheesy bake – just the names fill me with repulsion. But there is no reason why a bake should not be a beautiful thing and happily, it is always all cooked in one pan, which saves on washing up as well.
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to it my kids, aged 9 and 11, they are happiest eating nothing more complicated that some meat or fish, some potatoes and some vegetables. But it is so important to keep it varied, interesting and full of flavour for the adults. So this first recipe is just very simply a selection of all your family’s favourite vegetables, baked all together with a lovely piece of fresh wild salmon.
Choose a selection of seasonal vegetables which compliment, rather than overpower the fish. This week’s selection of fennel, ramano peppers and courgettes, along with some cherry tomatoes and potatoes left over from last week’s box, were perfect. This dish also makes a great alternative to a roast at the week-end especially when entertaining. If you want to impress, make a lovely sauce to serve along side it. I made a simple lemon mayonnaise. Don’t be scared of mayonnaise, it is easier than you think. But I have given you a couple of other alternatives. Salsa Verde , Salmoriglio or a delicious Anchovy and Rosemary Sauce to drizzle over your fish, are a few of my other favourites from my River Café days.
I only eat wild salmon, when in season, as I find farmed salmon is too fatty for me. There seems to be a good supply of sustainable Alaskan Wild Salmon available, very reasonable and full of flavour. Obviously I would prefer to shop more locally than Alaska so If you are worried about your carbon footprint then at least make sure that the vegetables are locally sourced. One last tip about salmon: don’t overcook it. As soon as you see white liquid coming out of the salmon, that is albumin and it’s a protein, and is a sign you’re your salmon is done. Remove immediately from the oven and your fish should be still pink and juicy inside.
This bake works well with sausages as well and can take a heartier selection of veg. Think butternut squash, sweet potatoes, parsnips, red onions, carrots or beetroot, along of course with the veg I used for the fish. It is a really good way of using up vegetables at the end of the week from your veg box. Come to think of it, if you have got a lot of veg to use up, you can always leave out the fish or meat and just have the baked veg. It is just delicious on its own.
Fillet of Wild Salmon and Vegetable Bake with Lemon Mayonnaise
2 generous slices of wild salmon, with or without skin
2 bulbs fennel, trimmed of excess outer leaves, save fronds
2 courgettes, cut into ½ inch slices on the diagonal
Large handful of cherry tomatoes
Couple of handfuls of new potatoes, boiled in salted water until cooked
Extra Virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
Cut the fennel into 4 or 6 pieces lengthways, depending on size. Cut the potatoes in half or if very small leave whole. In a large baking dish toss all of the vegetables with 3-5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Make sure the tin is big enough. If the vegetables are too crowded they will sweat instead of bake. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Try and make sure that the potatoes are facing down and that the fennel and courgettes are also flat side down. The more surface area that comes into contact with the bottom of the pan, the easier the vegetables will brown. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Remove the pan from the oven and push the vegetables to one side. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and place it in empty space you made in the baking dish. Return the dish to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes, based on thickness of the salmon. Scatter with the chopped fennel
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Zest of one lemon,
juice of half a lemon
100mls rapeseed oil
50 mls extra virgin olive oil
Place the egg yoke in a bowl and add the mustard, the lemon zest and the juice of half a lemon. Add a good pinch of sea salt. Whisk very well, using an electric whisk if you have one. Don’t worry if you don’t, you just have to work harder. Very slowly add the rapeseed oil, especially at the beginning. Keep whisking until all the oil is amalgamated and them slowly add the olive oil. Check seasoning.
(If your mayonnaise splits, add a tablespoon of boiling water in a large metal bowl. Very slowly whisk in your split mayonnaise. It should come back together. Then add your remaining oil just as normal.)
All sauce recipes below are adapted from The River Cafe.
I vary this recipe according to what I am serving it with. I prefer to go easy on the mint as it can end up tasting a bit toothpasty and instead I opt for basil, dill, chives or the fronds from the fennel tops. Just get a good tasting balance.
1 large bunch Flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 bunch Mint leaves
Very good extra-virgin olive oil
3 Garlic cloves
50g Anchovy fillets
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Red-wine vinegar
In a food processor chop the garlic, capers and anchovies. Add the mustard and vinegar, season and add some olive oil and purée until well amalgamated. Add all the herbs and whiz and more olive oil to achieve desired consistency.
In a pestle and mortar, pound 4 level tablespoons fresh Thyme or preferable fresh Marjoram or a very good quality dried Oregano with 1 teaspoon sea salt until completely crushed. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Pour 8 tablespoons of very good, peppery extra virgin olive oil slowly into the mixture. Add a little freshly ground black pepper.
Anchovy and Rosemary Sauce
2 tbsp. fresh young rosemary leaves, very finely chopped
12 anchovy fillets
Juice of 1 lemon
150mls very good extra-virgin olive oil
Place rosemary leaves in a mortar and grind as finely as possible. Add anchovy fillets and grind to a paste. Add lemon juice, mix well, and then, stirring constantly, add oil, a few drops at a time. Transfer sauce to a small bowl.