I learnt many things from my late mom. She taught me to love the intricacies of language, from how beautiful poetry can use words to bring you to tears, to how to write formal letters with razor-sharp wit, meaning and clarity. It is because of her that I love to travel to new places with an open mind and an optimistic outlook. She showed me how to be strong and independent and not to limit myself according to what other people think or say. It’s from her that I get my lifelong obsession with cats, shoes and scarves. And growing up in a house where she cooked proper food from scratch almost every single night has meant that takeaways and ready meals are a rare treat in our house, rather than staples. She also taught me how to borrow recipes – her hand-written recipe index book that I inherited is littered with loose sheets of paper in other people’s handwriting containing things like “Evelyn’s nutty wheat bread”, “Barbara’s Shanghai steak” or “Alison’s Black Forest trifle”. But she not only collected friend’s recipes – she was also adept at gleaning ideas from restaurants – which is how smoked salmon paté moulds became our Christmas meal staple after we had them at a restaurant in cape Town in about 1990.
Being a food blogger in London provides me with a smorgasbord of opportunities for being inspired by the recipes of others. There is, of course, the entire world of blogs which is filled with innovative and inspiring recipes (also way too many cake pops, granolas and kale smoothies, but that’s a discussion for another day!); and there are fantastic restaurants and chefs producing clever and beautiful dishes that tempt me to recreate them in my own kitchen. London is also awash with opportunities to attend food-centric events sponsored by food producers, venues, chefs, marketing bodies and tourist boards – and it is one of these events that inspired today’s dish.
Late last year the Norwegian Seafood Council hosted an event at Aveqia (a venue that I really adore) where the lovely and talented Signe Johansen would be cooking up a pre-Christmas feast using Norwegian salmon – how could I resist? On the night, Sig spoke to us about how much the Norwegians love salmon (and butter!) and how it is an integral part of their Christmas meal, whether smoked or fresh. After enjoying some smoked salmon canapés we all pitched in to make our own smørrebrød – a Scandi-style open sandwich with smoked salmon & pickled cucumber on sourdough with avocado, creme fraiche & lemon. She also showed off an enormous whole Norwegian salmon which she stuffed with red onions, lemon, dill and various other bits and baked before serving it on a salad of kale, roast squash & pomegranate. The succulent fish paired so well with the sweet roast squash and who can resist some ruby pomegranate arils on a vibrant bed of green kale? And for dessert, there was a traditional Norwegian fyrstekake (literally royalty cake) consisting if a flaky pastry encasing a sweetly spiced almond filling, from Sig’s new book Scandilicious Baking, and of course a steaming mug of cherry gløgg. Skål!
Although all the food was delicious, it was that salmon on the kale salad that really stuck with me, and although it has taken a couple of months, I have finally made good on my promise to myself to recreate a version of it at home. In Sig’s original version, the kale itself was raw but had been massaged vigorously with olive oil to break down its chewiness slightly – think of how lettuce in a salad wilts when you leave the dressing on it for a while. It’s a wonderful technique that makes the kale leaves surprisingly tender – I definitely do want to experiment with this. But this week it’s been too cold and windy to contemplate cold kale leaves, so my home-grown kale was wilted in a pan with a little olive oil. I also replaced the roasted squash with roasted sweet potato, and because I did not have a giant whole salmon (!) I pan-fried individual fillets in a little butter. The dish was not only gorgeous to look at but also packed with good stuff for growing and maintaining healthy bones – the sweet potatoes, kale and pomegranate collectively supply a massive whack of vitamins A, C, B6 and K plus Manganese and Potassium; and the health benefits of oily fish like salmon are well-known. But more importantly, it tasted fantastic. My mom would have been proud!
DISCLOSURE: I attended dinner as a guest of the Norwegian Seafood Council but was not required to write about it. I retained full editorial control and all opinions are my own.
- 2 orange sweet potatoes
- 2 cups young kale leaves
- ½ cup pomegranate arils
- olive oil
- sea salt
- 2 salmon fillets
- a knob of butter
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into batons. Toss the batons in enough olive oil to coat lightly and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for about 30 mins until tender. I usually turn on the grill at the end to caramelise them a bit.
- In the meantime, rinse and dry your kale leaves. Heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan an add the kale. Sautée while stirring continuously until the leaves begin to soften slightly, then remove from the heat. Keep warm and add a bit of butter to melt over the kale.
- Pat the salmon fillets dry and salt the skin side. Heat the knob of butter in a non-stick pan and when it is bubbling, add the salmon fillets, skin side down. I press down on them using an egg-lifter or my hands for the first 30 seconds or so after they hit the pan - a trick I learnt from a French chef to keep them from curling up. Fry until the pale cooked colour extends about halfway through the fillets, then turn over, press down firmly, and turn the heat off but leave the pan on the stove.
- Divide the kale between two bowls or plates and top each plate with half the sweet potato fries and half the pomegranate arils. Top each plate with a salmon fillet and serve immediately with a glass of white wine.
- NOTE: to make the recipe dairy-free, use olive oil instead of butter.
If you enjoyed this recipe you might also want to have a look at…
- My salmon with a beetroot and blood orange salsa
- Meeta’s salmon kedgeree with butternut squash
- Michelle’s salmon confit
- Helen’s salmon ceviche and cranberry canapés
- Aniko’s miso and mirin marinated salmon
- David’s salmon rillettes
Let’s keep in touch!
You can also find me tweeting at @cooksisterblog, snapping away on Instagram, or pinning like a pro on Pinterest. To keep up with my latest posts, you can subscribe to my free e-mail alerts, like Cooksister on Facebook, of follow me on Bloglovin.