A little of what you fancy . . .

A healthy fish bake and an indulgent dessert

Sat, Apr 6, 2013, 01:00

S ometimes you need a no-nonsense kind of dish that is good for a Sunday lunch or dinner and ticks some nutritional boxes, and another that shows you have a bit of dazzle up your sleeve.

This salmon and leek bake is a dish that screams “I am a grown-up” and can be rustled up in a jiffy. It shows a streak of sense and will please slightly fussy types that like things piping hot and quite plain. It is one of those dishes though that really looks lovely before it is cooked, but then loses its leeky-green lustre once it has baked in the oven. But don’t worry, the flavour is still there.

It’s the type of dish my late mum, Val, would have approved of and would always have been delighted to eat: no butter or cream, a good oily fish and plenty of greens. She would have tolerated the Greek yoghurt, but would probably have preferred it without any dairy, so you can fool around with this one. Olive oil, lemon juice and herbs will do.

This prune and caramel dessert, on the other hand, would have been her Achilles pudding, for she adored anything with prunes, dark chocolate or raisins (especially rum-raisin ice-cream). However she had the discipline and good sense to only eat small quantities of those things that are bad for us. But I know if she’d got her hands on this pudding, she would even have eaten small bites of it for breakfast, such was her weakness for a delicious dessert.

I often forget that prunes are dried plums and although many folk really just think of them as some sort of fruit laxative, they are very much prized in the highest culinary regard in France, featuring in many classic desserts. So embrace them here without any shame.

The recipe makes quite a large batch and the warmth from all the spices gives this a great edge. Cardamom, also known as the queen of spices, is one of those flavours that is so unusual and works so well in both savoury and sweet dishes.

But this is a recipe that really does need the caramel sauce to bring out the depth of flavours. I would recommend making this the day before you want to serve it, lightly scoring it into slices, pouring half the sauce over it while still in the tin and leaving it to soak overnight. Return it to the oven to warm slightly, and then serve individual portions with yet more sauce slathered on top. A good blob of cream or Greek yoghurt would be a good addition.