A Roast to Good Health!

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It’s been a while since I have done a post on this blog and, I have to say, it feels strange not to be documenting Marge’s journey as frequently as I once did. However, I feel it could be a good thing, a sign of my anxiety easing, that I have less of a need for an outlet to cope with the stress.

Things do seem to be getting a lot easier. The side-effects of the chemotherapy are definitely subsiding and, with every day that goes past, Marge has a bit more colour in her cheeks, her beautiful smile is getting wider and the blue of her eyes is glistening ever brighter. We all definitely feel that a corner has been turned and that we can start to look forward to this journey coming to an end.

I even managed to prise myself away from home and leave all worries and concerns at home (or at least attempt to) by going on holiday for a week. The timing was slightly unfortunate as it coincided with Marge’s second operation to get rid of some pre-cancerous cells that were found after her first op. But, good as gold as she is, I woke up in New York and was greeted to a detailed text assuring me that everything went well, that she was home safe and being looked after by the rest of the family. Being such a control freak, the fact that it wasn’t me looking after her and tending to her needs did make me feel slightly nervous, however I have learnt throughout this whole experience that I do have a habit of carrying the burden independently, like a stubborn donkey insisting on demonstrating its strength and merit. But it’s OK to relax and let other people help out, in fact it is beneficial for everyone and is conducive to a more content and less anxious environment.

Of course, this does not mean that I will be giving up my role as chef. I love how much cooking for Marge has helped her and me over the past months and have so enjoyed learning more about both nutrition and new and exciting flavour combinations. In fact, though I had the most amazing time in NYC and saw the most wonderful sights, sampled the most amazing food (I came back with a whole recipe book of ideas banked in my brain), a large part of me missed cooking. I have never experienced this when I have gone away before; I think it may be because I am cooking all the more frequently at the moment, but actually, more probably, because I have genuinely experienced the real and unparalleled joy of food since starting this blog, its healing and bonding powers.

And so, to the first meal after a brief interval – the Sunday roast. A Sunday without a roast is, quite frankly, not a true Sunday. It is missing a vital piece of the the relaxed and cosy puzzle. Yet in summer this often doesn’t feel like the appropriate meal, with its heavy meats and deep, rich gravies. The summer equinox is fast approaching and light evenings call for ever-lighter meals. However, I do not want to abandon the beloved roast completely, this would be a bit of a defeatist attitude. Instead, the roast needs its ‘summer wardrobe’.

IMG_0722Fish, to me, is such a summer staple, reminding me of warm evenings in beach-side restaurants, the sound of the waves gently floating through the air. Roasting is always a fool-proof and incredibly delicious way to cook a lot of fish. Salmon especially, lends itself really well to this method, as it’s meaty flesh means it can hold its shape and take on marinades and rubs really well. I came across the following recipe for Roast Salmon with Hasselback Potatoes and loved how it subtly twists two of the main ‘roast components’ to make this dinner both lighter and prettier (something very important in this Instagram age…). The earthy flavour of the salmon is brought to life by the light acidity of lemon and the freshness of bright, green herbs; paired with a simple salad, it was amazingly easy and perfect for those Sundays in a lazy, summer haze.

As a little extra note: hasselback potatoes have to be the most fun way to cook potatoes. Not only do they look like cute little hedgehogs, but they are the perfect mix of crispy chip-like texture and the fluffiness of jackets. Absolute winner.

Recipe: Roast Salmon with Hasselback Potatoes

Serves 8.

For the salmon:

  • 2 whole sides salmon, skin-on
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp juniper berries (optional)
  • handful fresh dill, finely chopped
  • handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 x 30g pack chives, snipped
  • 2 lemons, 1 zested, 1 sliced
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 100ml white wine or Pernod (optional)

For the potatoes:

  • 8 medium white potatoes
  • 50g (2oz) butter

For the salad:

  • 240g (8oz) watercress, spinach and rocket salad
  • 100g (3 1/2oz) pitted green olives, sliced
  • 100g (3 1/2oz) radishes, sliced
  • 1/2 x 285g jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped

Method.

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 6/200°C/fan 180°C. Line a roasting tin with a sheet each of kitchen foil and nonstick baking paper large enough to scrunch up around the salmon, but not cover it. Put a piece of salmon, skin-side down, in the tin.
  2. Using a pestle and mortar, finely grind the peppercorns, coriander seeds and juniper berries (if using) with 1 tsp salt. Set aside.
  3. In a bowl, combine the dill, parsley, 2/3 of the chives (reserving the remainder for the salad) and all but 1 tsp of the spice mixture. Add the lemon zest, then discard the remaining skin and pith and cut the flesh into small segments. Add to the herb mixture, squeezing out as much juice as you can with the back of a spoon. Stir in 1 tbsp of the oil.
  4. Spread the herb mixture over the salmon flesh, then top with the second piece of salmon, skin-side up. Tie the fish together with kitchen string, tucking a lemon slice under each piece. Scatter over the remaining spice mixture and drizzle with the remaining oil. Scrunch up the sides of the foil and nonstick paper to catch the juices.
  5. For the potatoes, slice each one at 3-4mm intervals, cutting just over halfway down. Put the butter in a roasting tin and melt in the oven. Add the potatoes to the tin and toss in the butter to ensure the cuts are well coated. Season.
  6. Roast the salmon and potatoes for 50 minutes. After 20 minutes, add the white wine or Pernod to the salmon (if using, otherwise add a little cold water), basting occasionally with the juices. Turn and baste the potatoes every so often in the butter. Remove the salmon after the cooking time and leave to rest in a warm place. Continue cooking the potatoes for 10-15 minutes, until tender and golden.
  7. Meanwhile, make the salad. Put all the ingredients in a serving bowl, along with the reserved chives, and toss to combine with a little oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon.
  8. Serve the roasted salmon in slices with the potatoes and the salad.