Take salmon’s side for an easy midweek meal

Approaching Christmas, here’s a quick, easy, healthy dish the whole family will eat

Easy baked salmon with tapenade

Easy baked salmon with tapenade

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This time of year I just want to sit at my kitchen table icing an intricate gingerbread castle listening to Bing Crosby while the Christmas tree lights warmly glow. But reality, while not a million miles away from that dreamy vision, does involve me having to set the gingerbread construction site aside every few hours and make dinner. After a long walk in the woods hunting for holly or pine cones for our Christmas wreath, we will all arrive home famished.

Trips to Santa with plenty of sweets and chocolate from visitors means that real food is needed in between. More than ever I’m in search of quick, easy and relatively healthy dishes that I know the whole family will eat. Enter this divine salmon. Half a side of Irish salmon (or double the recipe and do a whole side) with a generous layer of tapenade, surrounded by roast tomatoes and serve over fresh pappardelle pasta. It’s indulgent comfort food that you’ll feel great eating. The tapenade is oily and penetrates deep into the salmon to ensure perfectly cooked fish full of flavour. I add a splash of sambuca, entirely optional, for sweet aniseed flavour to balance out the salty olives. The tomatoes provide the perfect acidity for these glorious good fats with some basil leaves for fragrance. It’s a beloved combination I came across years ago from Yotam Ottolenghi. His prawns with arak and tomato is one of my favourite dishes.

And while salmon is earthier than sweet prawns, this still works so well. Another way I love to cook a side of salmon comes from Alison Roman. She lays the salmon in a large baking dish and lays slices of orange and lemon over the top, then covers it all in olive oil. The citrus flavour infuses the entire fish and it tastes incredible and so luxurious while being really easy to cook. It also looks very pretty – the perfect dinner party recipe.

This recipe would also work well with trout fillets or monkfish; gauge the cooking time on the thickness of the fish. I sometimes add a pinch of chilli flakes to the tapenade. If you really want a kick of heat, use harissa paste in place of the tapenade and scatter with torn coriander leaves instead of basil. It tastes great with fluffy couscous.

If you can’t find tapenade, buy black olives, drain them and blitz them with a few tablespoons of olive until you get a textured paste, not too smooth. It’s lovely served with a cheeseboard or spread on crostini with a little goat’s cheese as a quick and easy canape over the holidays.

EASY BAKED SALMON WITH TAPENADE

Serves 2-4

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½ side salmon

2tbs black olive tapenade

2tbs sambuca or arak

1tbs olive oil

250g cherry tomatoes

4 basil leaves, torn

To serve

Pappardelle pasta or rice

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Place the whole cherry tomatoes into a medium-sized, high-sided baking tray. It needs to be large enough to fit the salmon. Pour over the olive oil and coat the tomatoes and dish. Make a little space in the centre and sit the salmon skin-side down in the tray. Mix the tapenade and sambuca together in a little bowl. Spread this over the salmon in a thick layer. Scatter with a few torn basil leaves and bake for 12-15 minutes until the fish is just cooked and the tomatoes are beginning to blister. Serve with pappardelle pasta and spoon over all of the delicious cooking liquor. Top with a little fresh basil and serve.

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