Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Recipe: Charred Leeks and Salmon, Sauteed Potatoes, Preserved Lemon Mayo

After pulling up the first of our over-wintered leeks on Sunday I had wanted to do something a bit more interesting with them than bung them in a soup, stew or curry; something a bit more befitting of a vegetable only two hours out of the soil. The overture to a stonking feast at House of Tides recently (did I mention we'd been? Yes, I think I did...) started with a whole steamed baby leek with onion puree and truffle. I liked the idea behind this, so thought I'd do something vaguely similar with our own. I've enjoyed them charred in fancy-pants restaurants before, so steamed-then-charred it was. Salmon fillets, spuds and a lemony mayo seemed like good companions for these mini-alliums. I pretty much freestyled this on the hoof, but it came out great. As far as recipes go it's a little bit of a faff on, but the whole thing only took about an hour to prepare from scratch, so not too onerous. If nothing else, I'd seriously recommend doing the leeks in this way on their own, especially as bbq season swings into view. Done over coals I reckon they'd be even better.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 5-8 baby or small leeks, depending on size
  • 2 Salmon fillets, skin on
  • 4 medium sized potatoes
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Some preserved lemon rind, to taste
  • 1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 100ml sunflower oil
  • 25 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Additional extra virgin olive oil for frying potatoes and brushing over salmon and leeks. Good sea salt and fresh black pepper.
  • Get everything together and make sure the salmon is out the fridge for about an hour before you're going to cook it. This will help it cook evenly. First things first, prepare those leeks. Wash any dirt off the outside, trim nearly all the green leaves from them. Trim off all the root hairs, but leave the base intact as this will hold the thing together later. Steam the trimmed leeks for about 5-10 minutes, depending on the size. They should feel very tender, almost squidgy. Take them out and slice in two, lengthways. Holding by the root, wash under a cold tap to cool quickly to maintain the colour and to rinse out any dirt from between the layers. Dry on a double sheet of kitchen paper. Set aside.
Into the steamer
Halved, rinsed and cleaned
  • For the mayo, in a scrupulously clean food processer blend together the egg yolk, mustard, preserved lemon and vinegar until frothy and well combined. With the motor running, add the oils, a drop at a time to start with and then in a fine stream until you have a nice mayonnaise consistency. Season with salt and pepper, put in a serving pot and set aside. If the mayo looks too thick you can let it down with a splash of cold water. Too thin? Try whisking in a splash more oil. You can either make preserved lemons yourself, or, if you don't want to wait a month, buy some. They go great in tagines and Mediterranean food in general, especially when breathing some much needed sunshine into the gloomier months of the year. You can get them in a lot of middle eastern food stores, or, if you're in Newcastle, mmm.... have them. How much preserved lemon rind to put in, and how finely to chop it, is a matter of taste. For the mayo recipe here, I used this amount, chopped as finely as I could be bothered:
About a quarter of a preserved lemon (only use the peel) was about right for me.
Mayo done.
  • For the sauteed potatoes, add a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil to a heavy-based frying pan. Peel the spuds, then cut into approx 1.5-2 cm dice. Add to pan and fry over a medium heat turning regularly for about 20 minutes. They are best when you cook them quite slowly as the insides need to have the chance to cook through before the exterior burns. You know they are done when they make a rustling, rather than sizzling noise in the pan and are evenly coloured all over.

  • As soon as the spuds are in, fire up either another very large heavy-bottomed frying pan, or better, a cast iron griddle/hot plate. Brush the prepared leeks on the cut side with plenty of extra virgin olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Do the same to the skin side of the salmon fillets. Make sure your griddle/frying pan is searing hot.
Leeks and Salmon, ready to griddle
  • Put the salmon fillets, skin side down, on the griddle. There will be smoke, so extractor on to full blast and maybe open a window or two. Season the flesh side as it sizzles and let it cook for 4-5 minutes. After a couple of minutes, put the leeks on the grill, cut side down. More smoke.
Grilling away
  • Turn the salmon over and cook for another minute or two. The skin should be very crisp. You know when it's done when the tip of a knife inserted into the very middle of the fillet feels just warm when touched to your bottom lip. Cold and it's underdone; hot and it's gone too far. As for the leeks, flip them over after a minute of so. They're done when they've got a nice char but aren't burnt.
  • To serve, divide the leeks between two plates, cut side up. Plonk a salmon fillet on top of each row of leeks, skin side up. Bung on some sauteed spuds and serve the lemon mayo on the side.

This really was a top-notch plate of food, and the perfect coda to a very pleasant weekend. As nice as the salmon was (perfectly crisp and salty skin), the leeks were the real winner. Tasting of the outdoors, tender from steaming with a hint of smoke from the grill. I'll be repeating this way with them many, many times.


  1. Sounds delicious...and looks very posh, just like those fancy restaurants you've been spending so much time in lately!!1

  2. That was pretty much the plan!


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