salmon and potato bake
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Billingsgate in east London is the largest fish market in the UK. It sells about 150 varieties of fish and shellfish from all over the world, from cod and haddock through snapper, grouper, barramundi, emperor bream to bizarre produce like gull’s eggs. But apparently just four or five types of fish constitute the bulk of the market’s sales – and my guess will be it’s salmon, tuna, haddock and cod – the last two via the fish and chips medium most probably, tuna – because it comes in tins. Surveys and research indicate that the British are scared of cooking fish.
I can’t believe that.
We are an island nation after all! We should be like Japan, where fish is the key ingredient, or hero, of most meals. We have campaigns promoting sustainable fish, there’s a multitude of fish recipes all over the place, supermarkets stock all kinds, headless, head-on, filleted, diced and we’re being bombarded by information on nutritional benefits, omega 3, fatty acids and recommendations on how we should eat fish three times a week.
On the other hand there is sad evidence – a truly excellent fish restaurant in my town had to close a couple of years ago, they didn’t thrive. There used to be a fishmonger’s shop but long gone and now it’s an ice-cream parlour. The fishmonger in the weekly market has very recently been replaced by bric-a-brac that sell lamp shades and little porcelain cats. On the other hand it seems that people who order fish in restaurants are generally happier! God only knows how the researchers came to that conclusion.
Okay – so let’s try to tackle fish like it wasn’t fish. Like it was chicken – only slightly different colour. The recipe below is dead – FIENDISHLY – easy, cooks in ten minutes and the only prepping involved is boiling potatoes. We’re not scared of THEM, are we?
salmon and potato bake
- one boneless salmon fillet per person (no head, no gills, no scales – just like chicken eh?)
- a handful of medium sized waxy or salad potatoes per person – depending on appetite
- a little butter
- three generous spoonfuls of crème fraiche
- a spoonful of wholegrain mustard
- a little grated parmesan or pecorino
- a small bunch of dill, finely chopped
It's actually grilled even though I call it a bake, but if we can have pan-roasting, why not a grilled bake?
Halve the potatoes or leave the smaller ones whole – the pieces need to be uniform size. Put in a pan with salted water and bring to the boil. Cook for about 15 minutes until soft, insert a fork or a tip of a knife to check. Drain them and toss with a little butter.
Prepare the salmon – cut the fillets into evenly sized chunks (my rather biggish fillets cut into eight each). Butter lightly a gratin dish that will hold the fish and potatoes spread comfortably. Put the salmon chunks in and tuck the potatoes amongst them. Season everything with salt and pepper and sprinkle with half the dill.
Mix the mustard with the crème fraiche and dot all over the salmon pieces, avoiding potatoes – those need to be crispy, not saucy, so add a bit of parmesan onto each. Put under preheated grill on medium-low and cook for 10 minutes, checking occasionally if not scorching too quickly.
That’s it – the salmon will be perfectly cooked through (even a bit too cooked for my liking…). Sprinkle with the rest of the dill before serving and you can garnish it with lemon and serve with green salad or ratatouille.