Midsummer Night’s Dream
It’s easy to forget about the importance of seasonality in a world where you can often stroll into supermarket and have your pick of the most ruby-red Spanish strawberries or grass-green Peruvian asparagus from January through to December. Freak weather, short seasons and the growth of importing in recent decades have made overseas offerings easy and appealing. But if you make a point of cherishing our own island’s fleeting produce they become truly special. In the 1960s, when my grandparents started the (now ceremonious) family tradition of serving up wild salmon, new potatoes and peas for one night every summer, these basic components were - dare I say it - slightly glamorous and exotic. They may not be so now, but if you exercise a little restraint and make an effort to only indulge the crops that reflect the Britain’s capabilities, you’ll appreciate them infinitely more.
Most people will have a select few meals in their repertoire, even if it’s just one or two, which have been passed down from generation to generation: this is one of mine. I see this as a polar opposite to Christmas dinner. It mightn’t be molecular gastronomy, it may only feature fairly basic ingredients that have now become commonplace, but I romanticise this dish so much that you could perhaps accuse me of putting it on a pedestal. I picture the 1960s when my Grandma Betty began this tradition; salmon was almost always wild and hard to get, olive oil was bought in chemists and the vegetables were solely supplied by greengrocers. Betty used to make this for my mother’s Birthday every May 27th and I will do my utmost to continue the tradition.
(For the salad)
1 large Cos lettuce, torn
1 large bunch of radishes, halved
1 handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
4 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
3 spring onions, sliced diagonally
1 small cucumber, deseeded, halved and sliced
4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1 bunch of tarragon, finely chopped
For the salmon:
6 fillets of organic salmon
1 lemon, sliced
A few sprigs of fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
Minted new potatoes
Boiled garden peas
Preheat the oven to 180C. Place a large sheet of foil on a clean surface and lay the salmon fillets evenly on top. Drizzle over some olive oil, salt, pepper, sprigs of parsley and lemon slices. Fold the foil over and seal the edges. Place on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
While the salmon is cooking, bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the eggs for 8 minutes (more if you like the yolks completely set, less if you like them soft). Layer all the salad ingredients except for the eggs in a large serving platter. Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning in a mixing bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad then scatter the eggs on top.
Remove the salmon from the oven and leave to cool for a minute. Tear open the foil and serve the salmon along with the salad, buttered asparagus, minted Jersey Royals and boiled peas.