A festive salmon dish that keeps giving

A festive salmon dish that keeps giving

One recipe, many ideas!

Maybe you noticed: I often talk about food memories, and deconstructing recipes.

So here's what happens when I encounter a recipe. Like the one that caught my eye the other day, when leafing through Nadiya Hussain's book 'Fast Flavours'. (I'm not much into baking but I have a huge respect for Nadiya's attitude and spirit. This book is full of super simple, often blindingly original ideas.)

I was looking for festive looking dishes for my guest writing for TREE next week. Under the 'herby' chapter I found 'Salsa Verde Side of Salmon'  on page 25. (For an online recipe reference see here.)

The photo looks impressive, a proper centre piece kind of dish. But the simplicity of it is even more beautiful: a side of salmon, simply covered with a herby green sauce and baked whole. Served with baked onions cooked at the same time. There is an extra twist in the form of crispy salmon skin flakes as a topping (waste nothing).

So someone may read the recipe as what it is on the surface: one recipe. Get the ingredients, follow the steps, enjoy the meal, and then file it under 'I got a great recipe for...'  

Most people seem to stop here. But in my head the actual recipe is only the starting point that immediately starts spinning off ideas:

✔️ The main

Punchy green sauce that cuts through rich sweetness of the salmon. Yes!

Using a whole side of salmon is what makes this dish impressive and fit for the festive table.
And I fell in love with salsa verde long time ago. But there are lots of other possibilities to combine these flavours (rich & punchy) to a similar effect even if you are not hosting the biggest family dinner of the year.

  • The sauce would work well with any salmon fillet. Or some mackerel (also fatty). Or any piece of fish really except for the most delicate. Or some pork belly or lamb chops (fatty again).
  • This could also work well with a 'meaty' kind of veggie base, say spooned over roasted cauliflower, a grilled aubergine, or even a baked potato.
  • Whatever you choose, it's going to be easy: Blitz the sauce. Spread on top. Bake or grill.
  • In any case, a bit of flavoursome sauce or spicy paste on top of a piece of fish is one of my favourite quick dinners that's impressive enough to serve a guest. I have used harissa paste, Thai curry paste, green pesto, red pesto, salsa verde and chimichurri for this. Some were home made, some from a jar. It all worked!

There are many variations of salsa verde (green sauce) - basically a herb paste, and the main character is herby and punchy. Totally up my street - I learned to love it from Nigel Slater.

Back to Nadiya's recipe, here's my quick ingredient analysis as I read through the list:

  • Fresh herbs: The base of the sauce, so they are a must. Parsley listed here is a great base, but it could be swapped or mixed with other green herbs: mint, dill or coriander, for example, or even wild garlic.
  • Capers: provide savoury punch and acidity. Olives or mustard could be an alternative.
  • Garlic: adds punch and complexity.
  • Tinned fish: adds the necessary hit of savoury umami. She uses sardines, I like punchier anchovies. Miso paste, soy sauce or olives would do a similar job in a vegan version.
  • Vinegar: provides acidity. lemon juice or mustard would do a similar job.
  • Salt: this is obvious - it amplifies all the other flavours.
  • Fat: she uses ghee, I like olive oil. Makes the sauce creamy.
  • Panko breadcrumbs: optional in my head. They will make the sauce less runny. Any kind of breadcrumbs, bits of stale bread, some oats, or ground linseed would work as well here to mop up liquids, if the sauce turns out too runny to stay put on the fish.

How do I know all this? Simply because I have tasted these ingredients, with enough curiosity to remember. If you're not doing that yet, now is the time to start. It's never too late!

✔️ The side: 

Baked onion wedges flavoured with miso & ghee. OMG! 

This is a new flavour idea I have not come across before and to me it sounds so tasty that my brain is flipping out! Miso is savoury and ghee is buttery. Add that to the sweetness of baked onions... OMG! I can immediately think of any number of dishes this would be great with. Probably great just piled on toast too. OMG!... I must try asap (even without a side of salmon). 

  • I'd use butter mixed with olive oil if I din't have ghee (stops butter from burning). 
  • Miso is one of a kind and can't be replaced really - I always have a jar of miso in my kitchen (it's fermented so it keeps practically forever).

✔️ The twist

The crispy skin flakes. Hmm...

  • If you tend to throw away your salmon skin this is a nice idea.
  • The crispy flakes will make for a nice texture contrast against the soft fish and onions. 
  • But if you eat your salmon skins like I do, I think this is just an optional twist for a bit of extra faff. I'd be inclined to drop this one unless I has the extra time and inclination for that extra step.


There you go: a step by step analysis of what flies through my head when I 'meet' a new recipe that piques my appetite. (Not every recipe does... if I glance at it and it doesn't grab me, I keep looking.)

You bet I'll be trying the miso onions this weekend!

And next time I can get hold of a big bunch of parsley I'll make some salsa verde again and use it with whatever meat or fish I happen to have. It doesn't have to be a whole side of salmon. One thing is for sure: salsa verde is delicious!

Categories: COOK, EXPLORE


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