Potted salmon with cucumber, crème fraîche and watercress

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A large piece of salmon fillet is baked slowly and flaked into serving glasses with pickled cucumber and watercress mousse in this potted salmon recipe from Phil Howard. The key to nailing this recipe is preparing well in advance and buying good quality salmon.

First published in 2015
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Potted salmon


Watercress mousse


  • Blender
  • Fine strainer


Season the salmon on both sides with salt and pepper and then set aside. Place the lemon slices, fennel, spring onion tops and celery in a bowl and lightly season with salt
Lay a third of this mixture over the base of a roasting tray. Lay the salmon fillet on top, stud it with the star anise and sprinkle with the fennel and coriander seeds. Cover with the remaining fennel mix and then place in an oven preheated to 65°C for 40 minutes
Peel the cucumber and cut into 4 cross-sections. place each piece on its end and slice into 1/2cm thick slices until you reach the seeds. Repeat until all the flesh has been cut away. Use these slices to fine dice the remaining flesh of the cucumber into 1/2cm cubes
Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the cucumber, mix well and set aside or 30 minutes
Meanwhile, gently heat the sugar and vinegar in a small pan, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside
  • 250g of caster sugar
  • 250ml of white wine vinegar
Rinse the cucumber thoroughly under cold running water and, in 2 batches, squeeze it out firmly by placing it in the centre of a tea towel and twisting it into a ball. Place the cucumber in a bowl. Pour the sugar and vinegar mix over the cucumber and set aside
Remove the salmon from the oven and carefully prick it with a fork. If it is soft, pink and translucent and flakes apart when moved, it is cooked. If there is any resistance, cover it again and cook for a little longer. Once cooked, set aside to rest for 20 minutes
Uncover the salmon and gently scrape off the star anise, coriander and fennel seeds. Flake the salmon into a bowl, double checking for any bones
Pour the contents of the roasting tray into a colander and push gently to extract as much juice as possible. Add this to the salmon and discard the vegetables
Drain the cucumber and add to the salmon. Add half the horseradish, 3/4 of the crème fraîche, 3/4 of the dill, a tsp of the lemon zest and the finely sliced spring onions. Fold in gently to retain the natural texture of the salmon
Leave for 5 minutes, stir briefly and taste again. If lacking flavour, add some of the reserved ingredients to taste. If too dry, add the remaining crème fraîche. About 2 hours before serving divide this mix between 8 large, wide glasses or soup bowls and set aside in the fridge. Leaving 8 teaspoons of the mix separate for garnish
For the watercress mousse, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Blanch the watercress for 30 seconds in the boiling water, strain and place not a bold of iced water immediately. Once cool, drain throughly and using your hands, squeeze out as much water as possible
Place a large, heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add the butter and once melted, add the onion and a generous pinch of salt. Cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent
Add the watercress to the pan followed by the whipping cream, turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Cook for 2 minutes, then transfer to a blender and blend to a smooth purée. Pass through a fine strainer into a bowl
  • 300ml of whipping cream
Soak the gelatine in cold water for about 5 minutes, until softened. Remove and squeeze out any excess. Add the gelatine into the warm watercress purée and whisk until it is completely dissolved
  • 1 gelatine leaf
Set the bowl over some iced water to cool it quickly and preserve the colour. Stir it frequently and, at the point where it starts to set, lift it out and set aside at room temperature
Make sure the double cream is very cold, add to a large bowl with a small pinch of salt and whisk until soft peaks form
  • 300ml of double cream
Place the bowl back over the iced water, run a whisk through the watercress mix to ensure it is smooth, then gently fold in the cream until well combined. Taste the mix, adjusting the seasoning if necessary
Remove the glasses from the fridge and pour or spoon the watercress on to the salmon in a layer about 2cm deep. Set aside in the fridge for 1 hour
Before serving, use the salmon mix that was set aside to add 1 teaspoon per portion on top of the watercress mousse, followed by a small frond of dill
First published in 2015

Phil Howard has always been a ‘chef’s chef’, quietly notching up years of service and influencing the industry immeasurably. After selling his iconic two Michelin-starred restaurant The Square to open Elystan Street in Chelsea, he has proved himself yet again to be one of the UK's brightest culinary talents.

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