Clementines transport me to my childhood and the promise of Christmas. They sing of December, whether they’re in a bowl in my kitchen or dropped into my children’s stockings, and I use them in all sorts – from cakes to sorbets, jellies to jams. Here, I bake them with a delicious salmon fillet alongside fennel that turns sweet and caramelised, and serve it with dollops of dill creme fraiche. It will make a wonderful, colourful and delicious centrepiece for your festive table.
Baked salmon with citrus vodka, clementines, fennel and dill creme fraiche
Prep 40 min
Cook 30 min
For the salmon
1kg whole salmon fillet, pinboned – sustainably sourced and ideally wild, when in season
4 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp crushed pink peppercorns
1 small bunch dill
2 fennel bulbs with fronds
2 tbsp lemon juice
For the clementine vodka glaze
100ml citrus or lemon verbena vodka (I’ve made one for Colwith Farm Distillery, but you can make your own: cut a stalk or two of lemon verbena or take some lemon or grapefruit peel, put in a glass jar, pour over the vodka and infuse for 1-2 weeks, testing every 2-3 days
Juice and zest of 4 clementines or 2 oranges, plus 3 extra clementines, unpeeled and thinly sliced
6 tbsp runny honey
3 star anise
3 bay leaves
For the dill creme fraiche
500g creme fraiche
4 tbsp finely chopped dill
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and black pepper
Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Lay the salmon skin side down on a baking tray lined with baking paper brushed with a little olive oil. Divide the salmon into six or eight by slicing down through the flesh, but not through the skin. Brush with more oil and season with the chilli flakes, dill, crushed pink peppercorns and sea salt.
Trim the fennel, removing any tough outer layers, then cut into thin slices, fronds and all. Put in a bowl and toss with two tablespoons of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and some sea salt, then arrange around the salmon ready to bake.
Mix all the dill creme fraiche ingredients in a bowl with plenty of black pepper and sea salt – always taste and consider.
Put the vodka, clementine zest, juice, honey, star anise and bay leaf in a pan and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Add the sliced clementines, cook for five minutes until softened, then lift out the fruit and set aside. Reduce the remaining sauce until glossy, for four to five minutes more, then pour it over the salmon fillet.
Bake the fish for 10 minutes, then lay the candied clementine slices down the centre of the fillet and roast for another 10 minutes. Put the tray in the centre of the table and serve with the dill creme fraiche, festive red cabbage and all.
Fiona Beckett’s drinks match There’s a lot going on here flavour-wise, so you need a wine with the personality to carry it. Step forward New Zealand sauvignon blanc: the richly textured Waitrose No 1 Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (£11.99, 13.5%), from Awatere, with its lush, passion fruit and gooseberry fruit, would fit the bill perfectly.