Salmon with fennel and freekeh salad

Salmon with fennel and freekeh salad - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul

Wonderfully light summer dinner.

Norwegian salmon is a strong brand in Turkey, at least among those who can afford it. And why not? Salmon is one of those versatile ingredients that can take on any flavour – certainly including those of Turkey and the Middle East.

Rich in fats, salmon does well with a little zing and freshness. Here, sumac, the tangy spice made from dried and crushed sumac berries, gives the zing: a citrus-y counterweight to the slightly fatty salmon.

The freshness comes courtesy of a Middle Eastern inspired fennel salad. I say Middle Eastern inspired because fennel isn’t a common vegetable around here. It is, however, a really good match with fish, perhaps especially salmon. Indeed, perhaps this is also precisely the reason fennel isn’t as popular as many other place – fish and seafood is a somewhat underdeveloped part of these cuisines.

I’ve bulked up the fennel salad with peas and freekeh, a sort of smoked bulgur wheat made from wheat harvested green which is then burnt (the moisture protecting the kernel itself from the fire) and dried giving it the most delicious smoky aroma. If you can’t find freekeh (also sold under its Turkish name firik), use regular bulgur instead. Serves two.

Salmon with fennel and freekeh salad - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul

Salmon with fennel and freekeh salad

Salmon with fennel and freekeh salad - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul
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  • 2×200 g salmon fillets, preferably skin on
  • 1 tsp sumac, plus extra to garnish
  • olive oil, to fry
  • salt and pepper

Fennel and bulgur salad

  • 75 g freekeh (firik) or bulgur
  • 100 g green peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1 fennel
  • 10 g flat leaf parsley (without thick stalks) or dill (without thick stalks), torn
  • juice of 0,5 lemon
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

My method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 C.
  2. Boil the freekeh or bulgur in plenty of lightly salted water until just tender, typically 15-16 minutes though different types and brands may vary. Rinse under cold water to stop from boiling further. Drain.
  3. Boil the peas until just tender and retaining their beautiful green colour, 1-3 minutes. Transfer to ice cold water immediately to cool down. Drain.
  4. Season the salmon with salt, pepper and sumac.
  5. Heat a little olive oil in a thick based frying pan over medium/high heat. When the oil is hot, fry the salmon skin-side down for 2-3 minutes. If your frying pan is oven proof, turn the salmon (leaving the skin-side up) and place in the oven. Otherwise, transfer the salmon to a small oven tray greased with a little oil (leaving the skin-side up) and place in the oven. Bake until the salmon is as you like it. How long that takes depends on how thick your salmon is and whether you prefer your salmon slightly raw in the middle or cooked through. My salmon was just cooked through at 8 minutes.
  6. At the same time, cut the top off the fennel, reserving  any fennel fronds. Halve the fennel and slice off the root. Slice the fennel halves into thin slices using a mandolin or sharp knife.
  7. Add the fennel slices, any fennel fronds, freekeh or bulgur, peas, flat-leaf parsley or dill, lemon, extra virgin olive oil and a little salt and pepper to a bowl. Carefully turn a couple of times with your hands and check for seasoning.
  8. Add the salmon and salad to two plates. Add a little extra sumac to garnish and serve immediately.

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