Sunday 11 November 2012

Low-Carb Salmon, Beetroot and Rocket Salad - and my food cravings

The cost of imported fresh salmon in South Africa is so ludicrous that I hardly ever buy it, but every now and then I get a craving so powerful I can't help but give in. No amount of outstanding Franschhoek smoked trout will dampen my longing for Northern-Hemisphere salmon, so when the mood strikes I sneak out and buy a big coral-pink slab of the best Norwegian or Scottish fish I can find. No one in my family much likes fish, so I cook it just for myself, and gobble it fresh from the pan on its own, or with some steamed veggies or fresh leaves or a cold herby sauce.

I used to think these indulgences were driven by greediness, but ever since I was pregnant with my first child 21 years ago, and tormented for months by cravings for sweet sultanas and biltong, I've firmly believed that gnawing thoughts about a particular ingredient are my body's way of telling me that it has a  dire nutritional deficiency.

Sure, this may sound like a handy excuse for pigging out on pork sausages, butter, wine, mashed potatoes, icy Coca-Cola and the other basic food groups, but I have to say that I seldom experience genuine, aching cravings for these treasured comforts. I want them, all right, but it's easy enough to put these thoughts out of my mind by smacking myself firmly across the bridge of the nose. 

When an irresistible food-lust strikes, it is usually for iron- and calcium-rich foods (even though I've never been anaemic or brittle-boned), such as very salty, dry biltong, spinach, watercress, rocket, beetroot, steamed broccoli, rare steak, fresh tuna, tinned anchovies, smoked mackerel, strong blue cheese and warm hard-boiled eggs smooshed up with Hellmann's mayonnaise and white pepper. I also occasionally develop overwhelming longings for certain fruits such as oranges, pomegranates, litchis and ripe, blood-red cherries.

Do you also experience sudden food longings? And which ingredients do you most often crave?

I've put myself back on a low-carb regime for a few weeks in the run-up to the piggery that is bound to go on over the festive season, so I thought I'd combine some of these ingredients in an extremely healthy salad. Looking at the list of ingredients above, I'm sorry I didn't add some warm boiled eggs and steamed broccoli to this plate, because surely these would've made for a salad of such nutritional awesomeness that I'd wake up two inches taller than my unimpressive five foot two.

This is a simple salad, but so satisfying: the combination of sweet roasted beetroot, peppery rocket, meltingly tender flakes of salmon and little bursts of tart sweetness from the pomegranate seeds makes me want to eat it every day.

I usually roast beetroot in a foil parcel, but this time I tried using a sturdy plastic roasting bag, which worked beautifully. This salad needs nothing more than a drizzle of olive oil and a spritz of lemon to bring the flavours together, although you could add a little mashed anchovy and fresh garlic to the dressing to give it a mighty punch.

Low-Carb Salmon, Beetroot and Rocket Salad 

12 small beetroot
3 cloves garlic
a large sprig of thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and milled black pepper
500 g fresh salmon steaks or fillets, pin-boned and trimmed of bloodlines
a large packet of wild rocket, enough for 4 people
8 spring onions, finely sliced
the seeds from a fresh pomegranate
olive oil and lemon juice, for dressing

Heat the oven to 180 ÂșC.  Put the beetroot, whole and unpeeled, in a roasting bag (if you don't have one, put everything in a tin foil parcel).  Smack the unpeeled garlic cloves with a knife blade to split them, and put them into the bag with the thyme, bay leaves and a little salt and pepper. Knot the bag, pierce it in three or four places with a toothpick and place it on a baking sheet.  Bake the beetroot for about an hour and a half (depending on their size), or until they are very soft. Remove them from the bag (save any accumulated juices, but discard the herbs and garlic cloves), slip off their skins, trim the tops and bottoms and cut them into wedges.

Put the salmon pieces, skin side up, in a large shallow pan big enough to hold them in a single layer. Add enough water just to cover them, plus a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice, turn on the heat and bring the water up to a very gentle simmer - it should barely burble. Poach the salmon until just cooked through - this will take about 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pieces.  To check for doneness, take a salmon piece out of the water and press the flakes apart with the fork. If there is any raw pink flesh near the skin, poach them for another minute or two longer.  Remove the fish from the water with a slotted spoon and pat it dry with kitchen paper. Peel off and discard the skin, then cut away any brown or fatty flesh.  Pull the fish into a large flakes.

Arrange the rocket, beetroot wedges and warm salmon pieces on a large platter and scatter over the sliced spring onions and pomegranate seeds.  Drizzle any reserved cooking juices from the bag over the  salad, plus a generous spritz of lemon juice and some olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Serves 4. 

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1 comment:

Jesse said...

I couldn't agree more about cravings. Mine are usually for eggs, shellfish, or green things - peas or rocket.

Good to know that beetroot roasts well in roasting bags! I run out of foil more often than I do roasting bags.