A (fish) bone of contention…

Politeness is the flower of humanity.
Joseph Joubert

Maggie Beer's Salmon with Pea Salsa

I know, I know, I should have walked around the corner and bought my salmon from The Fishery on the High Street like I usually do. Not only would I have got a lovely piece of fish rather than the scraggy tail-end bits I ended up with, I also might have got a smile from Danny who owns the joint and shared a joke with his dad, Johnny, who seems to have been put upon this earth to increase the jollity of the masses. But what can I say? I was in a hurry, so I popped into Wholefoods on Church Street instead.

I just got Maggie Beer’s new book, Maggie’s Kitchen, and I was oh so keen to try her Salmon with Pea Salsa. All I needed were the salmon steaks and there they were in the chiller cabinet, not as thick as I’d like but hey, ho. I couldn’t tell if they had the skin on or not, so I asked a nearby assistant if they did.


Is that the merest suggestion of an eye roll, or is it just me being hypersensitive? Erm, no, I’m not. Apparently, I’m very stupid. ‘Well it doesn’t matter does it, as it only takes a second to take the skin off.’ She’s looking at me like I’m probably not to be trusted with sharp objects. ‘But I need it with the skin on,’ I explain meekly. More eye rolling (honey, you’ll get wrinkles) and much prodding of the packaging to try and flip the fish over. ‘There, it’s got skin, you can see it,’ she thrusts it at me and I’m sure she’s speaking a little slower to compensate for my dimness. ‘Perhaps they should put whether it’s skinned or not on the label,’ I brave. At this point, I am obviously a complete moron. ‘Why do you need that? When. You. Can. See. It.’ Hmmm.

I’d love to stay and explain that – in my 20 years of working around food, reading about it, writing about it, cooking it – encouraging customers to poke and prod at something as delicate as fish is probably not a good idea. But if I am to continue to enjoy the Wholefoods experience, I really need to get back to work to pay for it.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some great people filling the shelves there. The produce guy is lovely and you couldn’t buy shampoo from a more charming person than the German woman who’s queen of the natural remedies section. Forget the lavender oil, she makes me feel calmer just looking at her. But some of the others … As my friend Virginia would say, ‘I see we’re going to have to build an extension on that charm school’.

P.S. Danny, Johnny, please forgive my cheating heart, or wallet. I promise I won’t make the same mistake again.

Maggie Beer’s Salmon with Pea Salsa

Maggie Beer’s my Aussie food heroine. I love her bold flavours, passion for eating seasonally and must-make-it-right-now recipes. This salmon’s a winner – simple enough for a midweek dinner, elegant enough to place it in front of fussy guests without fear.

I came home to find my chervil had withered away and died – and in the recent combination of sweltering heat followed by torrential rain, even hailstones, who can blame it? So I hacked away at my seemingly invincible parsley instead and it tasted great. I think the salsa would also be good with mint in place of the chervil, a sort of posh mushy peas, but then I’m Northern.

4x140g salmon steaks, skin-on (Got that, skin on!)
Flaky sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil for trickling over the top
10g unsalted butter
Juice of 1 lemon
Chervil sprigs and lemon wedges to serve

30g unsalted butter
Extra virgin olive oil, for cooking
2 golden shallots, finely chopped
¾ cup chicken stock
1 ½ cups frozen peas
1 sprig chervil
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pea cavalcade You know how sometimes you say things aloud which should probably have remained in your head? I once announced on a radio show that ‘A day without peas is like a day without sunshine,’ something my friends tease me about to this day. I don’t mind really. Because it’s true.

For the salsa, melt the butter in a deep frying pan with a little olive oil over a medium heat, then add the shallots and sauté for 10 minutes or until translucent. Meanwhile, bring the chicken stock to the boil in a small saucepan.

Add the peas and chervil (or parsley, or even mint) to the shallots, then, when the peas have thawed, add the hot chicken stock and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly. Puree the pea mixture in a blender (or use a mouli if you have one), then season with salt and pepper if you like.

Peas in the mini chopper

Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat. Season the skin-sides of the steaks with salt. Add a splash of olive oil to the hot pan, then cook the fish, skin-side down, for two minutes or until the skin is crisp and you can see from the side that they are cooked at least halfway through.

Season the other side of the fish with salt, then quickly wipe the pan with a paper towel, drop in the butter and, when melted, gently turn the salmon over, using either a palette knife or spatula. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, then leave the steaks to sit in the hot pan for five minutes. The centre of the fish should be just set or a little rare.

Place the salmon steak on each plate, then top each with a spoonful of pea salsa. Squeeze over the lemon juice, sprinkle with chervil and drizzle with a little olive oil, then serve with lemon wedges on the side.

TIP To get a nice, crisp skin on fish, warm the pan over a medium-high heat, add a tiny splash of oil, and then put the fish into the pan, skin-side-down. Then wait. Don’t poke and prod at it. When it moves easily, the skin is seared and crisp and you can turn it over easily.

11 thoughts on “A (fish) bone of contention…

  1. Eye Roll? Isn't that at the Harry Potter Sushi place? Since I cannot imagine anyone who is in your presence concieving of you being DIM, I must assume that the dimness is in the head of the be…ur…header? (Well, that started off so well in my mind, but somehow jumped the rails once my fingers got going…) Anyway, I shall try your salmon, my dear, and let you know if the eye rolls I achieve are of the “back into the head” sort, not the “omg” sort. Hugs, Marline of the Permanently Vexing “ie or ei” Variety


  2. Oh, oh dear me – sorry it took me so long to pop 'round
    you see, my Charm extension cord wasn't long enough and I couldn't make it to the keyboard without maybe,possibly mangling a Whole Foods “expert” on the way
    please do forgive me (curtesy and smile)
    I love all things green and I am positively giddy with the thought of making a pea salsa like moule for anything I dream of making


  3. Hello Mina – No kidding! The salsa was delish and I can't wait to make it again.
    Rebecca – How lovely to have dual-heritage bags!
    Mariana – Hey, lady, of course you're my other Aussie food heroine (along with Stephanie Alexander)! I'd love to see Maggie's show – I feel like I 'know' her from her writing. When you cook someone's recipe, it can be quite an intimate thing I think. Something that graced their table now graces yours and you're thousands of miles apart. Does that sound weird? As for the book, it seems to have her characteristic combination of show-stopping grand dishes and simple everyday winners, like the salmon and pea salsa. At the moment, it's flagged with a dozen or so Post-Its marking things I can't wait to make. I'm sure I'll use it quite a lot. I'll certainly be dipping into it for a quick 'sanity break' on busy days! Perhaps you could go and 'visit' it in a bookshop for 15 minutes or so to see if it's one to add to your collection – as someone who owns far too many cookbooks, I understand your dilemma, believe me.
    CookiePie – Thank you! I know, what's that all about? To be honest, I've run across so many fantastic food sales people in my time (some in this very store) who are passionate about what they do, informative, helpful, quick to share recipes and so on, when you come across a dud 'un it comes as a bit of a shock!
    Linda – I do hope you do. It was quite quick and really delicious. I'm sure it's going to become part of the ole' Lickedspoon repertoire, certainly my husband hopes so!


  4. Hi Debora. Here it is 10.50pm and I am reading your blog. That salmon looks so delicious I could eat it right now 😉 I love Maggies recipes so will have a go at this one. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I agree with CookiePies comment…whats with these sales assistants? I commend your patience.


  5. Oh wow — what a lovely dish!!! So perfect for the season!

    UGH — I hate rude, condescending people — especially sales people. You're supposed to be SELLING me something!! I'm glad you persevered — the result is delicious!


  6. I love Maggie too. I watch a show here called “The Cook and The Chef”. She is the cook and I would rather eat her food any day compared to the Chef's. She is so passionate about local and seasonal and she is fanatical in supporting the Barossa Valley and her surrounding community. She just happens to look like a really nice lady too; doesn't appear to have an arrogant bone in her body. I'm curious to see what you think of her book. I am avoiding any new cookbooks these days because I have too many. It has to be really special for me to consider adding any more to the library. Does that silly?

    I think you have done Maggie proud. Your recipe looks great and sounds so healthy. Lots of omega 3's and 6's for you Debora to keep that literary brain functioning at top gear. Hehe.


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