Lately, I’ve been well-fed. That is to say, I’ve been eating a lot: sometimes I’ve eaten well, other times it’s more debatable. The past week’s meals have segued from the rich and bitter deliciousness of semolina gnocchi with braised chicory to Chinese takeaway, from after-dinner sherry to beer and burritos, to banana cake and pancakes. I wish I could tell you about more of it. In particular, I wish I could tell you about the amazing dinner we had last night, in honour of a maligned and scoffed at day that some people say is a commercial swindle. I say why not use love as your excuse to celebrate, to sit down and eat dinner with your favourite person or people? Isn’t love as valid a reason as the baby jesus’ birthday, or his death, or a day randomly assigned to mothers, or any of those other, also commercialised things? Especially if it means you can eat the roasted butternut squash with the smoky aubergine dip from Ottolenghi, and a rabbit and chorizo hotpot, and a large helping of sherry cream pudding with berries and sugary toasted almonds. Oh, and we went to see A Single Man, which is so absolutely incredible it more than made up for Breakfast At Tiffany’s being sold out.
So, my only problem is that none of these things I’ve been eating have been made by me. My sole contribution to the ongoing project of tackling my cookbooks was this salmon dish, which I think needs a bit of work; I think it’s good enough to write about as is, but with a bit of tweaking it could be fantastic.
In fact it should have been a red snapper dish, which might have been more interesting, but I always seem to have packs of special-offered salmon lurking in my freezer. If you’re interested, red snapper is on the MSC’s list of fish that’s OK to eat and I often see it frozen in whole and filleted form in the local Oriental shops or Indian grocers.
The idea of turning the recipe’s accompanying roast chilli drizzle into a roast chilli guacamole came about, rather uninspiringly, from the avocado ripening at speed in the fruit bowl.
Salmon with sweet potato bubble and roast chilli guacamole Serves 2
2 salmon fillets (or use red snapper)
2 large sweet potatoes
1/4 small green or Savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
2 red chillies (I would use the regular large-ish ones, you’ll need to skin them later and mine were too small to do this easily)
1 ripe avocado
3 tbsp chopped coriander (small bunch)
1 spring onion
1 tbsp plain flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tbsp olive oil, plus a bit extra for oiling
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180c. Put the sweet potatoes in a small baking tray and drizzle with a tbsp of the olive oil, season, and roll around to coat. Bake for about 50 minutes, until thoroughly soft all the way through.
Meanwhile, wrap the whole chillies and one of the garlic cloves in foil with a touch of salt, making a tight, flat package. Now, the recipe instructs you to chop the garlic first, but this gave me slightly burned garlic bits. I think it would be better to roast the clove whole in its skin and squeeze it out later. You might even roast a whole bulb or half a bulb, sliced through the middle, this way, so you can have extra roasted garlic around for squeezing onto bread.
Put the chilli/garlic package into the oven and cook for 20 minutes, then remove it and leave to cool.
Once slightly cooled, peel the chillies. Apparently this is easiest if you cut them in half lengthways, lay them skin-side down and scrape the flesh off with the back of a knife. You can discard the seeds or leave them, depending on how fiery you want your guacamole. Mash the garlic flesh and chilli flesh together in a bowl with a fork. Peel and destone your avocado and mash that in too. Stir in half of the chopped coriander, cut the lime in half and squeeze half into the bowl. Season well.
When the potatoes are done, take them out and leave to cool slightly so you can peel them (you’ll need the oven to stay at 180c for later, so leave it on or remember to turn it back on ahead of time). The skin should come away easily if you pull it. Roughly mash the flesh with a fork, then stir in the spring onion, cabbage, the rest of the coriander, the other clove of garlic, chopped, and the flour. Season and cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
When the time is up, heat the other tbsp of oil in an ovenproof frying pan. Shape the sweet potato mix into two round, flat discs, dusting each side with flour. When the oil is hot, fry the bubble for a few minutes on one side until browned and easy to turn. Flip them over and put them in the oven for 10 minutes while you cook the fish.
Heat a griddle pan, or the grill if you don’t have one. Lightly oil the salmon skin and season the fish on both sides, then press them skin-side down into the hot griddle pan. They should take 3-4 minutes on the first side – when they’re done, the skin will lift away from the pan without tearing. Turn and cook for a further 2 minutes on the other side.
Pile a fillet on top of each bubble cake, top with guacamole and serve with a quarter of lime.
Adapted from Allegra McEvedy’s ‘Colour Cookbook’.