Planked Salmon with Fennel Two Ways and Burnt Aubergine Puree
Cowie has a long and distinguished history of buying me awesome cookinggifts, not to mention having built Cassius as well. So when she gave me a collection of cedar planks for Christmas I got giddily excited.
Planking is an old fashioned culinary technique where you cook your meat or fish on a dampened plank of wood, such as cedar, over hot coals. The wet wood emits puffs of steam and smoke that gently encourage the flesh above to yield whilst providing a smoky backdrop. (For more in depth information about planking have a look at this site or buy this book.)
The easiest, and possibly best, thing to cook on a plank is a fillet of salmon. You land up with an indecently moist piece of warm smoky fish that will make you wonder why you’ve been eating boring old poached or grilled salmon for all those years.
1 cedar plank 1 salmon fillet big enough for two with the skin on Salt Pepper Lemon zest 2 aubergines 2 cloves of garlic 2 tablespoons of yoghurt Olive oil 1 fennel bulb Mint Juice of 2 lemons
Soak your cedar plank in water for anywhere between 2 and 12 hours. This will stop it burning.
Slice the fennel as thinly as possible. We didn’t have a mandolin on the camp site, surprisingly, so just make sure you’ve got a very sharp knife and haven’t drunk your own body weight in gin and tonic by this stage. Season with salt and pepper and then douse in the juice of 2 lemons.
Light your BBQ. When the coals have stopped flaming throw on two aubgerines and pierce with your knife. Let them burn, Ottolenghi-style, for 20 minutes or until steam is spurting out of the aubergines and the flesh is soft. Remove and leave to cool. Then scoop out the flesh, mash, and mix in the yoghurt, more salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon. You’ll be adding some smoked garlic later…
Descale the salmon and remove any pin bones. Then rinse in cold water. Pat dry. And then season like there’s no tomorrow. Add a few curls of lemon zest.
Place the plank on the coals and when it starts to smoke lay the salmon skin side up on the wood along with 2 cloves of garlic. Add the fennel to the grill and close the lid. Inspect after 10 minutes and turn the fennel. Judge the doneness of the salmon and continue cooking for as long as you like.
Remove from the heat and mash the smoky garlic into the aubergine. Dress the fennel ceviche with some olive oil, shredded mint leaves and check the seasoning. If you’ve got the inclination, remove the salmon skin and place on the grill to crisp up.
Serve the salmon from the plank with the two types of fennel and a saucy smacker of smokey aubergine puree.
The salmon was softer than an Andrex puppy’s downy ear and subtly smoked. Whilst the fennel was sharp and crunchy on the one hand and charred and sweet on the other.
After a scorching debut I think that planking may well be my new favourite cooking technique. We’ll have to push the boat out next time with some more adventurous recipes…
We still love to go on trips around the UK, staying in BnBs or camping in search of a good meal or two - hence, Around Britain with a Paunch. Quite often the trips have been prompted by Diana Henry's Gastro Pub Cookbook. Here's where we've been to: