This recipe is actually more of a template for a scrummy and speedy weeknight meal. Of course, I happen to think this flavour combination works really well: it’s earthy yet vibrant, hearty yet light. However, it’s not the particular combination that matters quite as much as having an easy way to create a weeknight meal quickly, without feeling monotonous and still capturing that feeling of a meal being special. Just because time is precious (especially in the working week), dinner shouldn’t have to be a one-pot-meal, stir fry, or pasta (all of which have a huge part to play in our routine). I think the combination of a vegetable purée for richness and moisture, a light vegetable element for crunch and acidity, and a quickly cooked piece of protein gives a balanced, healthy, and quick yet complex weeknight meal. So, this recipe is for quickly seared salmon with celeriac purée and soy sauce edamame, sweet corn, and tenderstem broccoli.
Right now, as it’s so cold outside (I found the recent London snow somewhat glorious!) you want something warming. However, that doesn’t have to mean gut-bustingly rich dishes*. The celeriac purée in this dish serves the same purpose as a mashed potato without the heavy starchy feeling that comes afterwards, the soy vegetables keep their crunch and freshness (a little chilli can add to the warmth), and the seared salmon is quite light. However, the salmon is a rich, oily fish, the vegetables a deep almost meaty flavour from the soy, and the celeriac is creamy and full of black pepper, so this dish still packs a punch without being heavy – that’s what I want from Winter!
Now, I know a lot of you will be thinking that a vegetable purée is a bit “fancy” for a mid-week meal and all in all this sounds scary and like too much work. But, if you think about it just like a potato mash. In fact, vegetable purées are often easier because you don’t need any elbow grease and don’t have to worry about it ending up gloopy. Also, fairly crucially, it can be cooked in advance, reheated, and left on the stove over low whilst you cook everything else. Lastly, leftover purées make great soup the next day, or can tastily bulk out a risotto. Once you’ve got the technique down pat, suddenly you’ve got a million different weeknight dinners at your fingertips. Roasted chicken thighs with carrot purée and cabbage anyone? Or maybe apple purée with fennel slaw and pork chop? Or maybe a watercress purée with a light salad and steak?
I know a lot of people are also a little tentative about cooking fish in a pan. Well, if I can put your mind at ease, with a couple of simple rules you’ll have no problems – I promise! For a really comprehensive, and pretty awesome guide, you can check this out. Otherwise, here is the cliff notes version:
- The first challenge is stopping it sticking to the pan. A non-stick pan helps but if you don’t have one, no worries stainless steel or carbon steel will work just fine (cast iron can be a little trickier unless really well seasoned).
- The real trick is having a good layer of oil in the pan and making sure it is really hot before you add the fish. As protein cooks, it forms really strong bonds, so if the meat cooks slowly it forms that bond with the pan and then it sticks. However, over high heat the bonds form very quickly and the evaporating moisture agitates it away from the pan and the high heat causes it to coagulate so quickly that it has partly done so before it comes in physical contact with the pan (it has to get through the oil).
- Make sure your salmon fillet is as dry as possible, so pat it down with kitchen towel (water really cools down the pan, helps it stick and stops the skin going crispy).
- So, now it’s not sticking but how do we get that perfect slightly rare in the middle, flaky and buttery salmon with a crispy skin? Turn down the heat once you add the salmon fillet and cook it almost completely skin side down
- Pan fry for maybe 15 seconds only on the non-skin side after a few minutes skin side down. It will take a little bit of practice to control the temperature well enough to have shatteringly crisp skin that isn’t burnt, but it’s an easy skill to master if you remember to turn the heat down.
- I personally think the skin is the best bit, deliciously crispy and salty, but if like G you don’t like it then peel it off after cooking (it’ll come off really easily). Skin is a great insulator and it’s that skin which will help cook your salmon gently and evenly so don’t take it off before starting!
- For bonus marks, press firmly on the salmon during the first 30 seconds of cooking because the skin wants to buckle which means you get inconsistent contact with the pan – whether you’re catching it on a rod or cooking it in a pan, salmon wants to fight back!
Seared Salmon with celeriac purée and soy vegetables (serves 4)
- 4 skin on salmon fillets
- 1 celeriac, cut into 1cm dice
- Large knob of butter
- Whole milk
- 150g podded edamame beans
- 2 cobs of sweetcorn kernels (cut off the cob)
- 200g tenderstem broccoli cut into bite sized chunks
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- Splas of shaoxing rice wine
- First make the celeriac purée. Place the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the diced celeriac. Season with salt and pepper and cook until soft – around 15 minutes. Add enough milk to cover and simmer for another five minutes. At this point the celeriac should be very soft – it might need a little longer depending on the heat of the pan or the size of the dice.
- Once the celeriac is soft, transfer it to a blender with the milk and blend on high for a minute until very smooth. You may need to add a little milk to reacht he perfect consistency. Season again at this point with salt and black pepper. Transfer back to a pot and keep on a low heat.
- Add some vegetable oil to a wok (or large frying pan) on very high heat. Add the broccoli and cook for around three minutes until almost tender. Add the edamame beans and corn kernels and cook for another minute. Add the soy sauce and rice wine with some black pepper (you may need slightly more or less than 2 tablespoons of soy sauce but you can eyeball a little) and cook for a further minute. If you want to add a little spice then you can add a finely diced deseeded chilli with the sweetcorn and beans.
- Cook the salmon following the tips and tricks above in the post. I.e., high heat with a decent amount of oil. Add the salmon skin side down and turn down the heat. Press the salmon into the pan for the first 30 seconds to prevent it curling up. Cook skin side down for around 3 minutes (or until the salmon is coked almost the whole way) and then flip over for around 15-30 seconds. Serve immediately spooning a little of the soy sauce juice over the top.
TimedEating tips and tricks for cooking this salmon dish ahead of time
- As with most fish dishes, the fish has to be cooked last minute.
- However, the celeriac purée can be made up a week in advance, to reheat simply warm gently on a low heat. If it is too thick then add a little milk and adjust the seasoning.
- All the vegetable prep can be done in advance, then the actual cooking only takes a few minutes. Remember don’t bring a knife to a fire fight!