Salt-baked wild salmon with roasted tomato aïoli, potatoes and purslane

Salt-baked wild salmon with roasted tomato aïoli, potatoes and purslane

By
From
My Favourite Ingredients
Makes
8-12
Photographer
Jason Lowe

This is a really good way to cook fish that is to be served whole for a large gathering. It allows a rich gelatinous, slightly oily fish to benefit from all the wonderful flavours that come from the bones. The salt coating sets firm, like clay, when it is mixed with water and exposed to high heat, so the fish steams beautifully inside its protective cask. Ask your fishmonger to gut the fish but leave the scales on – they will prevent the salt from penetrating the fish as it cooks.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 wild salmon, about 4kg, gutted but not scaled
2 unwaxed lemons, thinly sliced
1 branch wild fennel
5kg coarse rock salt

Tomato aïoli

Quantity Ingredient
3 organic free-range egg yolks
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/2 lemon, juiced
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
6-8 see method for ingredients, cooled
80ml extra virgin olive oil

Potatoes

Quantity Ingredient
1kg young english new potatoes, washed, such as Red Duke
1/2 lemon, juiced
60ml extra virgin olive oil
handful purslane or pea shoots

Method

  1. Start by making the aïoli. Place the egg yolks in a blender or food processor, add the garlic, lemon juice, a little salt and pepper and the tomatoes, then whiz briefly to combine. With the motor running, pour in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream through the feeder tube. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. (This can be made up to a day in advance.)
  2. When you are ready to cook the salmon, preheat the oven to its highest setting, at least 250°C. Rinse the fish inside and out under cold running water, then pat it dry. Place the lemon slices inside the cavity, along with the wild fennel, but don’t bother to season the fish.
  3. Put the rock salt in a mixing bowl and add enough cold water to give the consistency of wet sand (around as much as a litre, depending on the type of salt). Mix together with your hands.
  4. Spread half of the salt mix on a large baking tray or in a shallow roasting pan to create a flat, even surface. Lay the fish on top and cover with the rest of the salt, packing it firmly around the fish (as if you were burying someone at the beach!).
  5. Place on the middle shelf of the hot oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the fish is barely cooked. To test, pierce the thickest part of the fish through to the bone with a sharp knife. If the knife tip feels warm to the touch as you withdraw it, the fish is ready; if not, cook it for a little longer. Set aside to rest and cool to room temperature; the fish will continue to cook in the residual heat as it cools within its salt crust.
  6. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in well-salted boiling water until very tender (almost falling apart), about 20–25 minutes. Drain and while still warm, sprinkle with the lemon juice, season with lots of pepper and a little more salt if necessary, and add the olive oil. Toss well to combine, then add the purslane or pea shoots and toss again.
  7. To serve, crack the salt crust open with the handle of a knife or a rolling pin. Carefully remove the salt and peel off the skin from the fish. Serve the beautiful, succulent flesh warm or at room temperature, with the warm potatoes and tomato aïoli.
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