Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Spice Crusted Salmon with Mint Chutney

I wonder on and off about eating more fish - it is healthy, provides oils not found elsewhere, and generally adds a different texture and flavour to dishes. It has a whole repertoire that I seldom tap in to. There are reasons for this - I haven't cooked much fish so it is not familiar and is therefore daunting. I do not like 'fishy' fish - the strong flavour of oily fish - though I do like mackerel raw and I do think tastes can be acquired. There is the whole vexed matter of sustainability, the disastrous decline in native fish stocks in UK waters. I confess I do not know enough about it to shop wisely - though it is true that that is easily remedied with some research. It is reasonably expensive to buy most fish and that makes me tentative - if I cook it badly then it's a bruising defeat.

But when I was making the vague list that accompanies us every week on the trip to Borough Market on Friday evening I asked the man what he'd like for dinner Saturday and he said 'Fish'. So that was it. I'd enjoyed watching Hugh Fearmley-Whittingstall's programme on fish in the week, and was taken with his pleasure in organic farmed salmon - good quality fish that is sustainably produced. Flicking through some cookbooks it took a while for something to really leap out at me - but eventually I found this in Christine Manfield's Spice. It was simple and utterly delicious. Fast too - from go to whoah in half an hour.

Spice Crusted Salmon
2 pieces of organic salmon fillet, about 150 - 200g per piece
150ml vegetable oil
1 large dried chilli
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 tspn black peppercorns
seeds from 2 cardamom pods
1 tspn brown mustard seeds
2 teaspoons nigella seeds
1/4 tspn ground cassia (I didn't have any but it didn't matter)
1/4 tspn ground ginger
2 tspns salt
20g chick pea (gram) flour

To make the spice crust, in a small frypan dry roast chilli and whole spices except mustard and nigella seeds over gentle heat until fragrant and slightly coloured. Cool then grind to a fine powder - in a pestle and mortar is the hard way, in an old coffee grinder is the easy way. Stir in mustard and nigella seeds, ground cassia and ginger, salt and chick pea flour.

Coat the fish thoroughly.

Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan and cook the fish for 3 minutes until fish is a paler pink at the base. Turn fish over and cook for another 2 minutes. The fish should be rosy-rare in the middle and crusted gold on the outside.

Mint Chutney

1 cup firmly packed mint leaves
6 spring onions, sliced
3 small chillis, sliced
1 tspn minced ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tspn fish sauce
2 tspns castor sugar
1 tspn garam masala
60ml fresh lime juice
50ml vegetable oil

Blend all the ingredients to a smooth paste, adding the oil slowly. Spoon into a bowl for serving. It will keep refrigerated in a jar for a couple of days.
We had the fish with chutney drizzled, generous servings of cucumber raita and boiled ratte potatoes. It was a seriously good meal - better perhaps than I was expecting. Which makes me think I may cook a little more fish soon.

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