I love living in a village.
I loved living in the city too but I can't imagine going back. There are things that happen in rural England that simply can't be matched by the bright lights and sophistication of urban life. Much as a small dose of glitz and glamour is good for the soul, I adore the simpler pleasures of village fetes and fairs. Today was a case in point. I was
summoned invited to attend the Christmas meeting of the village 'Coffee and Chat' at the church. Being somewhat younger than those likely to attend, I can't say that I was filled with delight although the promise of a mid-morning sherry did gladden the heart somewhat.
|Black olives, capers, anchovies and garlic: tapenade|
Upon arrival (small son in tow), I was greeted with all that is best about English village life. The church was festooned in festive displays of greenery from villagers' gardens arranged artfully by a group of amateur flower-arrangers. There was a sales table groaning with homemade chutneys and jams plus various gifts no doubt found at the back of donators' present drawers. The raffle table was piled high with prizes including a tin of tomato soup and a bottle of Blue Nun (!). Ladies wearing flashing antler hairbands made tea and coffee and handed round mince pies. After half an hour or so of chattering, carol sheets were handed out and we romped our way through verses of Hark the Herald, Good King Wenceslas, The Holly and the Ivy, The First Noel and others. Unaccompanied but all in good voice thanks to the 11.30 am glass of sherry! My son was cooed over by everyone, much to his delight, and his Christmas jumper was admired by all. The raffle tickets were drawn and a buzz of excitement and anticipation filled the air; Doris* had lost her tickets, Frank* didn't want the beautifully-iced Christmas cake and asked for another ticket to be drawn and Edith* was thrilled to win twice-over. Simple pleasures, as I said. But ones that can't help but raise a smile and warm the heart.
(*Names have been changed to protect the lucky winners!!)
All this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with today's recipe. In fact, this recipe is about as far from seasonal as you can get. At this time of year, I tend towards the comfort of hearty casseroles and meaty pies but occasionally, I crave something suffused with the sunshine of warmer months. Last night was one such occasion. Salmon fillets feature regularly on our weeknight menus and I am always looking for new ways to serve them. This time, I created a delicious tangy tapenade to spread on top and then roasted the salmon to form a tasty crust.
Tapenade is easy to prepare and relies mainly on storecupboard ingredients so it is a handy one for whipping up to serve alongside drinks when unexpected guests call at Christmas. Keep a couple of part-baked baguettes up your sleeve so that you can make some quick crostini and bingo; instant canapés to impress your visitors. There are lots of variations of this tasty snack but all include black olives, capers, garlic and anchovies. I like to add a few fresh herbs too - flat leaf parsley and a few fresh thyme leaves by preference. Obviously, the better the olives the better the tapenade but I just used a tin of regular supermarket pitted black olives here and it still tasted pretty good! Traditionally, this would be made with a pestle and mortar but I use a mini-processor on the pulse setting. You are not looking for something totally smooth here - a bit of texture is a good thing.
I served this with roasted courgettes and broccoli as that is what I had but in the past, I have made a sort of roasted vegetable ratatouille of courgette, red pepper and cherry tomatoes. The tapenade is also great with cod too!
The recipe here makes enough tapenade for 4 servings. If serving two, I would advise making the same quantity of tapenade (a smaller amount is tricky in a processor) and save the rest as a snack the next day.
Tapenade crusted salmon
150g black olives
1 tbsp capers, rinsed
1 large anchovy (or 2 small - mine were huge!)
1 small clove garlic
2tbsp lemon juice
2.5 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
4 tbsp breadcrumbs
4 salmon fillets
1. Place all the ingredients for the tapenade into the bowl of a small processor and pulse until blended but not smooth. Alternatively, pound with a pestle and mortar. If time, set aside for 30 mins or so for the flavours to mingle.
2. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Mix the breadcrumbs into the tapenade and spread the mixture onto each of the salmon fillets.
3. Roast for 20 minutes until salmon is cooked.