I grew up in the bustling city of Jakarta: it’s air heavy with pollution, skies tinged with smog, and people moving around in all sorts of vehicles in all hours of the day and night. I’m sensitised to the chaotic nature of big cities. I sleep through the sounds of early morning traffic, police sirens and trains. I’ve learnt to walk through people rather than step aside in crowds. This is all very normal to me.
Moving to Australia from a concrete jungle over twenty years ago still has not seemed to help me get used to life outside of everyday madness. Sure, Melbourne isn’t exactly country town, but it sure is sleepy Hobbiton in comparison to Jakarta. So green too. I recall an aunt coming to visit us and being perplexed that most shops closed at 6pm, with 9pm being considered a late close. My brain is still surprised every morning when I am stirred by bright rays of sunshine seeping through my muslin curtains – as if it was just yesterday that I left the perpetual smoggy darkness of Jakarta. I’m amused by the reoccurring sense of tranquility I experience most evenings walking to a local park after 6pm, very aware that my surroundings are not roads that are bumper-to-bumper with cars, and that there are so many trees at the park the air becomes significantly cooler.
My favourite place here is the seaside. The coastal parts of Victoria are rugged and uncomfortably cold most times of the year, but poetically beautiful. Other times they are dangerously hot and ablaze with bush fires. Both extremes intrigue me. I don’t mind the cold as long as I can reach over and pull a big blanket over me and sip on some tea. Walking along these shores wrapped up like a walking wool burrito is always enjoyable too.
“Hello there sir, nice day for a walk isn’t it!”
“Why yes! Yes it is, walking wool burrito!”
My partner Josh grew up in these surroundings. The stories of his childhood seem almost alien to me. He has noticed a significant drop in the population of bees over the past ten or so years, because his parents had a garden full of lavender, roses and rosemary that would attract hundreds of bees in the summer. He grew up with neighbouring children who used to surf every morning that their hair was constantly bleached lemony blonde, and their skin freckled and tan all year round. When we go to visit his mum and grandfather, he knows the names of almost every person we pass on the street.
The recipe I’m sharing with you today is in tribute to this rugged coastal region I’ve grown to be so fond of. It is an adaptation of Gordon Ramsay’s herb baked salmon. The flavours are clean and it is relatively simple to make. I chose fillets over a whole fish because it is easy to pack away into lunch boxes for work. For Christmas last year, a friend gave us a tub of magnificent truffle salt and I used it to season the salmon. Of course, this is completely optional. If you like the truffle flavour you may want to find some truffle infused olive oil instead and swap it for the amount of olive oil listed in this recipe.
Happy feasting, and do mind your table manners.
Herb Baked Salmon Fillets with caramalised lemon
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
- 4 wild salmon fillets
- 1 large lemon
- 6 tablespoons olive oil (or truffle infused olive oil)
- 6 bay leaves
- Handful of rosemary sprigs
- Handful of thyme sprigs
- Handful of flat leaf parsley
- 6 basil leaves
- 6 bay leaves
- 2 lemongrass stalks
- 1 whole head of garlic
- pepper to taste
- generous pinch of truffle salt (optional)
- teaspoon of coconut sugar
- 6 whole star anise
- Prepare the salmon fillets by rubbing them in olive oil and (truffle) salt and pepper. Score the salmon fillets on both sides to allow the herb flavours to absorb whilst baking.
- Prepare a baking tray lined with enough foil to hang over the edges. Set aside the same length of foil to use as the cover for later.
- Preheat the oven to 190C
- Cut lemon into thick slices and toss in coconut sugar.
- Heat a heavy bottom frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil and fry the lemon slices until they are caramalised and soft. Set aside to cool.
- Lay a bed of the herbs on your prepared baking tray lined with foil, and sit a few slices of the lemon on top, then the salmon fillets on top of the lemon.
- Place the remaining lemon slices on top of the salmon fillets, and tuck garlic, star anise, and left over herbs in and around the salmon.
- Place your second sheet of foil over the fish loosely and fold the edges that are hanging over the edges of the tray over each other. You want to make a sort of sealed pocket.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let it sit in the foil unwrapped for a further 10 minutes in it’s heat and juices.
I choose to use wild salmon when I can for sustainability, as many fish farming methods pollute the environment and can endanger native wildlife. Farmed fish harbour diseases and parasites that are unknown to wild fish. When farmed fish escape, they spread these diseases and parasites to neighbouring ecosystems. Currently there are methods being tested to make fish farming more ecologically friendly.
Farmed salmon also can contain more than three times the saturated fat as wild salmon, so from a health perspective, I choose to use wild salmon. To learn more about salmon farming and sustainability, click here.