Colour me healthy
These colourful Scandinavian-inspired dishes are full of punchy flavours and they’re good for you, too, writes DOMINI KEMP
They are very cute, little green vegetables that look like Brussels sprouts, but with a sort of purple and green afro hairstyle. Just trim the bottom of them and roast with a lick of olive oil and rock salt. They really liven up any winter plate and are very good for you.
Due to erratic comings and goings over Christmas, I ended up having two big, thick pieces of raw salmon fillet left over one evening. I threw them into the freezer knowing full well that, in two years’ time, I would eventually find them and have to throw them in the bin.
However, during a rare afternoon of good housekeeping, I managed to make some room in the freezer by getting rid of the usual hodge-podge of unidentifiable bits of food wrapped in unending sheaths of clingfilm.
When I stumbled upon the salmon, wrapped up tight in proper disposable foil containers, it was clear that things were looking up. I decided to make some gravadlax, as we had tasted some really delicious stuff in Justin and Jenny Green’s lovely Ballyvolane House in Co Cork between Christmas and New Year.
When you haven’t had gravadlax in a while, you forget how deliciously simple – or if you’ll allow me to borrow a phrase – simply delicious it is.
Freezing the salmon seemed to have been a good thing to do, even if it wasn’t done intentionally. Some research suggests that it kills any parasites that may be present in the fish.
Anyway, conscious that this is the month for health and well-being, I tried to find an alternative to white or brown sugar to use and fell upon coconut sugar, which was recommended to me by my nutritionist friend, Susan Jane White.
It is still sugar, but it seems to be less refined and slightly better for you (and I do mean slightly) than regular sugar, so I decided to give it a go and it worked well, imparting a deeper flavour than regular brown sugar.
Instead of the usual dill and mustard sauce accompaniment (which is a sort of loose mayonnaise and really tasty), I made a lovely avocado aioli that was lightened up with lots of Dijon mustard and lemon juice and a clove or two of garlic.
It was wonderful with the salmon and also with the beetroot soup. In fact, one swirl of this aioli livened up everything no end.
These dishes may be perfect for January’s requirements to get back in shape, but they are so full of flavour that they would be a welcome addition to the table at any time of the year.
2 big pieces of salmon fillet with skin on (approx 600g each)
100g flakey sea salt (any good Irish one, or Maldon)
150g coconut sugar (or 100g soft brown sugar)
Big bunch dill
If you can, freeze the salmon for a few days and then defrost it in the fridge and get going. If you aren’t able to freeze it, the salt will kill off anything in there anyway, so don’t fret.
Allow three to four days’ curing time. Simply put the fish, skin-side down, into a foil container or suitable dish lined with foil. Mix the salt and coconut sugar together, roughly chop the dill and mix it to form a coarse green rub. Sprinkle half onto the salmon flesh, and then wrap it really well.
Put the other piece of fish into another small foil container and repeat. Wrap really well in clingfilm and stack one on top of the other.
Some recipes recommend sandwiching the two pieces together, but too much liquid is drawn out and the bottom piece gets too wet and the top piece not enough flavour. It is also good to be able to pour off some of this liquid after day three. I then added another bit of chopped dill, wrapped it up again and on day four, scraped the salt and topping away, removed it from the foil containers and then sliced it very thinly like smoked salmon.
It was very firm and quite salty but beautifully clean and tasty.
BEETROOT SOUP WITH AVOCADO AIOLI
Splash olive oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
1-2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery sticks, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
600g beetroot, peeled and diced
Fresh horseradish to grate into it, a dollop of avocado aioli , micro leaves and slivers of gravadlax to garnish (optional)
Heat up the oil in a good-sized saucepan that has a lid and sweat all the vegetables in it. Add the stock, put the lid on and let it cook gently for about 25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
If you don’t have a lid, the water will evaporate and when you go to blend the soup, you will need to add more water.
Do make sure the vegetables are tender before blitzing in a blender or food processor, and if you need to add more liquid to get it moving in the machine, that won’t be a problem.
If it tastes a little earthy or bland, remember that the aioli will give it a good punch. A little grated fresh horseradish is always nice and, if you must, a little salt. Or else just serve a sliver of the gravadlax on the side, which also goes superbly with the sauce.
Juice of 2 lemons
1 good tbsp Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 good tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Splash water if necessary
Whizz in a blender until light and creamy. Pour a good dollop onto the gravadlax or a generous blob into the soup. Delicious with everything, to be honest.
DOMINI RECOMMENDS: Flower sprouts are back on the shelves. If you can’t find them, ask your local grocer or supermarket if they can source them. I got some in Marks Spencer recently.