Wine & Food Killers: Peruvian-Spiced Salmon with Green Sauce and Tomato Salad and Offbeat Wines Watchtower 2020

I love the food cravings that sneakily overtake you – the ones that crawl out of your subconscious unbidden.

Most mysterious are the sudden desires for dishes that you haven’t thought about for years. All it takes is a minor change in temperament, a flicker of childhood memory or a phantom scent on the breeze, and that long-ago slice of cheesecake or baked pasta dish or pumpkin curry is conjured up once again.

That’s how this recipe came to be. It’s been more than a decade since I last ate Peruvian roast chicken. As a university student in New York City, I used to frequent a restaurant on the Upper West Side, which served the dish at bargain prices. My college boyfriend and I would make a ritual of walking the 20-odd blocks on weeknights, fighting over the juiciest morsels, bringing back doggy bags full of leftovers that fed us for days. As I remember, the chicken was cooked rotisserie-style and spatchcocked; spiced with cumin, oregano and Peruvian chilli pastes that turned its skin a deep bronze; served with aji verde, a spicy green sauce with garlic.

Except, this recipe isn’t for Peruvian roast chicken at all. It’s not only that those chilli pastes, aji amarillo and aji panca, are hard to find in London – but as the weather warms and the idea of turning on my oven becomes less appealing, I wanted something I could cook quickly. And so this salmon dish arose as a halfway invocation of that far-off restaurant roast chicken, its own distinct thing but no less linked to that decade-old memory. Here is a marinade that evokes many of the flavours of those collegiate dinners; here is that vivid green sauce.

Given we are now in the prime of summer, I also opted to serve it with a tomato salad, the green sauce doubling as a dressing of sorts. Inspired by a recent recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi, I used mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes, which pop sweetly between the teeth and come in many colours, as well as yellow bell pepper, feta and avocado, which adds a contrasting creaminess.

To make this recipe feel truly of the season, I served it with Watchtower from Offbeat Wines, a young negociant winery based just outside Salisbury. I’d wager that many drinkers still have not had an English rosé, but it’s hard to think of a better one to start with than this glorious bottle.

Made with Pinot Meunier grown outside Dorchester, the wine is amphora-aged and emerges peachy-coral with just a hint of sparkle on it (hence the crown cap). To me it tasted of strawberries and rose petals, with a mellow creaminess from the malolactic fermentation that gave it a rounded lusciousness. As Watchtower is a small-batch wine, be sure to savour it: When a future craving hits, it may be hard to sate it.

Peruvian-Spiced Salmon With Green Sauce And Tomato Salad
Adapted from Mindy Fox and Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 4

For the salmon:
Zest and juice of 1 lime
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons runny honey
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste
4 skin-on salmon fillets

For the green sauce:
Juice of 1 lime
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
90g sour cream
1 teaspoon runny honey
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 bird’s eye chilli, chopped
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
40g basil leaves
20g coriander leaves

For the salad:
1 kilo mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
2 avocados, diced
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste
200g feta, crumbled
2 teaspoons za’atar
Large handful fresh mint leaves
Large handful fresh basil leaves

1. First, prepare the marinade for your salmon. Add the lime zest and juice, two tablespoons of the olive oil, the garlic, honey, soy sauce and spices to a medium bowl and stir to combine. Sprinkle flaky sea salt over each of the four salmon fillets before adding to the marinade. Using a spoon or your hands, turn the salmon in the marinade to ensure each piece is evenly coated. Cover and leave to chill for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make your green sauce. In a food processor or blender, add all ingredients. Blend for several minutes, pausing to wipe down the sides with a spatula, until the mixture is uniform. Spoon into a bowl and set aside.

3. After 30 minutes, remove the salmon from the fridge and leave to warm slightly for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prep the salad: Add the cherry tomatoes, bell pepper and avocados to a large bowl, and drizzle over the olive oil. Season with a generous amount of flaky sea salt before mixing to combine. Crumble over the feta and season with za’atar. Wash and dry the herb leaves and set aside – don’t add them until right before serving, or they may wilt.

4. Next, cook the salmon. Heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, turn the heat to medium low. Pat the skin of each fillet dry of the marinade before adding one at a time, skin-side down, to the frying pan. Using a thin fish spatula, press each fillet down for 10 seconds, so the skin is flat against the pan, before adding the next one.

5. Continue to cook the fillets skin-side down for roughly 4–5 minutes, or until the skin is golden-brown and crisp. Using the spatula, gently flip the fillets and cook for 30 seconds–1 minute on the reverse, until lightly browned; next, do the same on each side of the fillet. The more well-done the salmon is, the firmer each fillet will feel; you can also gently insert a small knife between the flaky layers to gauge how pink the salmon is at its centre. After 7-8 minutes they should be medium-rare, which is my preferred option, but feel free to cook longer if desired. When done, remove from the heat and transfer the fillets to a plate so they don’t continue to cook against the hot surface.

6. To serve, add the herb leaves to the salad and toss to mix. Divide the salad evenly between large plates or pasta bowls. Top each with a salmon fillet and drizzle over the green sauce.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer and wine hound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen. Don’t miss out on Claire’s wine and food pairings, which go out every month in our Natural Wine Killers subscription box.