seared salmon with indian-spiced lentils

John Torode

I like my salmon one of two ways — smoked or seared. When I say seared, I mean charred on the outside and a little rare inside. The dark outside and sweet, soft inside is a good combo. Don't let the salmon cook too long or it will be fish-flavoured cotton wool. Make the lentils the day before if you are short of time; they last for a few days in the fridge. Feeds 5-6

for the spiced lentils
100g Puy lentils
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 clove of garlic, grated
25g fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
1 long red chilli, deseeded and diced
1 medium onion, grated
3 cardamom pods, crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
2 large ripe plum tomatoes, chopped
300ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp crème fraîche
A good handful of coriander leaves
50g butter

for the salmon
800g salmon fillet, skin on
2 tbsp olive oil

Rinse the lentils and put them into a large saucepan. Cover with fresh water and bring to the boil, then cook for 5 minutes. Drain and put to one side. Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan and gently fry the garlic, ginger, chilli and onion over a medium heat until golden — about 4-5 minutes. Add the dried spices and cook for a minute or two until fragrant. Now add the part-cooked lentils and stir well so they are coated in the spicy mixture.

Drop in the chopped tomatoes and turn the heat up. Squash the tomatoes with the back of a spoon, and when everything in the pan is steaming hot, add the stock. Bring to the boil, then turn the
heat down to a simmer and bubble gently for 10 minutes.

The lentils should now be tender and soft, but if they're not, leave them to cook until they are.
Heat the oven to 200C (fan 180C). Heat a griddle or frying pan over a very high heat for a good 10 minutes until really hot. Rub the salmon all over with oil and place it on the griddle lengthways, skin-side up. Be prepared to open all your windows and doors: this is gonna smoke — lots!

After about 4 minutes, lift the salmon, give it a quarter-turn to the left and cook for a further 4 minutes.

Flip it on to a baking sheet, skin-side down, and put it in the oven. Roast for 5 minutes.

While the salmon is in the oven, take a third of the lentil mixture and pop it in a food processor with the crème fraîche. Blitz for a minute to make a thick purée — this will thicken the sauce. Pour the purée back in the pan, let it bubble, then take it off the heat. Drop in the coriander and butter.

Take the salmon out of the oven, turn it back over, peel off the skin and throw it away. Pull the salmon apart with two forks — it should naturally flake.

Serve the salmon and lentils together on a big platter and let people help themselves.