For the salmon
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 large onions , halved and thinly sliced
- 1 large fennel bulb , halved and thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove , chopped
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- zest 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp harissa
- 1 tbsp agave nectar or clear honey
- 2 x 1kg/2lb 4 oz boneless sides of salmon , skin removed
For the couscous
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 2-3 tsp harissa
- 50g currants
- 300g couscous
- 2 x 400g cans chickpeas , drained
- juice 2 lemons , zest of 1
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- big bunch flat-leaf parsley , chopped
- small bunch mint , chopped (optional)
- 50g toasted flaked almonds
- lemon wedges, to serve
- Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan, add the onions, fennel, garlic and cumin seeds and fry, stirring frequently, for about 15 mins until the vegetables are soft and golden. Stir in the lemon zest and season. Leave to cool.
- Stir the harissa with the agave or honey. Place a salmon fillet, skinned-side down, on a large sheet of baking parchment and spread with half the harissa mixture. Top evenly with the vegetables, then cover with the other salmon fillet, positioning it so that the thickest end is on top of the thinnest end of the other fillet. Can be made up to this point, covered and chilled the day before.
- Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 with a large baking sheet inside. Brush the salmon with the rest of the harissa mixture, then lift (still on the parchment) onto the hot baking sheet and bake for 30 mins. Remove from the oven and check that the fish is cooked all the way through; if not done to your liking, cook 5 mins more and check again.
- To make the couscous, crumble the stock cube into a large bowl and add the harissa, currants and couscous. Meanwhile, put the chickpeas in a bowl with the lemon juice, oil and seasoning. Just before serving, pour 450ml boiling water over the couscous, stir well, then cover with a plate and leave to soak for 5 mins. Add the lemon zest, parsley and mint (if using) to the chickpeas and stir well, then toss through the hot couscous with the flaked almonds. Serve on a big, warm platter with the salmon (the easiest way to transfer the salmon is to lift it still on the parchment, then slide it on top), with lemon wedges on the side. To serve, cut the salmon in slices, or cut thicker slices and halve to make chunky squares.
So this is ideally a "celebration" dish, or at least a get-together. The quantities below feed 8-10 people, and they do that in real life. I had some cous cous left over (which was not an issue as it was equally delicious cold) and I don't think anyone held back. Being a fish dish, the Eldest was up for it - although it alienated the Younger two girls who had some left over Lasagne, but such is life. This was cooked on a late summer Saturday and felt very appropriate to the season.
The reason for choosing this was that most of the prep can be done the evening before (where you have assembled the salmon layers - cover and refrigerate overnight), and then the cooking of the salmon and the prep of the couscous are effortless affairs (as long as you have done your mise). And so it worked out. Easy to cook, impressive on the table and delicious to eat - you cant really ask for much more. It would be worth getting the salmon filleted and skinned for you if you prefer/are squeamish as it saves a lot of time. Incidentally I bought a salmon which weighted 2.6kg, and that yielded about 1.7kg of fillets for the record.
It was a hit with all, even my Father who is notoriously conservative in his tastes, so result. Definitely one to do again.