The elderflowers in the local hedgerows are becoming frothier each day. I confess that I am yet to make cordial with them this year, but I discovered a bottle of the stuff in the freezer, leftover from last summer’s batch. It didn’t seem to have suffered too much from its icy incarceration.
A few splashes went into a dressing for this simple fennel salad, a fresh and fragrant accompaniment to a piece of salmon. It’s pretty light as meals go, so you may wish to add some new potatoes alongside.
Ingredients (serves 2)
2 x 125g salmon fillets
1 ½ tsp fennel seeds, roughly ground (or chopped)
Dried chilli flakes
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp undiluted elderflower cordial
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for frying
1 large bulb of fennel, with its feathery tops
A bulging handful of rocket leaves
A handful of mint leaves
A few fresh elderflower petals (optional)
Wipe the skin of the salmon fillets dry with a piece of kitchen paper. Place the fish on a plate and sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper and a pinch each of ground fennel seed and chilli flakes. Put to one side.
Put the elderflower cordial in a small bowl with the vinegar and 2 tbsp olive oil. Add a generous pinch of salt, plus the remaining fennel seed and a couple of pinches of chilli flakes. Whisk together, then taste and adjust the seasoning, elderflower and possibly vinegar as you see fit. It should be gently sweet-sharp and fragrant.
Slice the fennel bulb as thinly as possible (using a sharp knife or mandolin) and place in a mixing bowl. Add the mint leaves, rocket and most of the fennel fronds. Put to one side.
Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add a splash of oil. When it’s hot, add the salmon pieces, skin-side down, and cook for 4-5 minutes until the skin is crisp and golden. Turn down the heat a little if necessary to stop it burning. When the skin is done, carefully turn the fillets over and cook for a minute or two more, until the fish is warmed though but still slightly blushing pink in the middle. Remove from the heat and place the fillets on two plates.
Add half the dressing to the fennel mixture and toss lightly together. Place a pile of salad next to each piece of fish and splash both with some of the remaining dressing. Add a touch more salt and pepper to taste, then scatter with the remaining fennel fronds, as well as a few elderflower petals if you have them.
Lucas Hollweg is an award-winning food writer, cookbook author and cook. A former Sunday Times journalist and cookery columnist, he writes for a wide range of food publications. His most recent book isGood Things to Eat.