© David Loftus
crispy barbecued side of salmon with cucumber yoghurt
I love cooking big pieces of fi sh on my barbecue, but you must use a medium-hot part of the barbie – if it's too hot, you'll crisp the skin before the inside is cooked. Start the fi sh off with the skin side down and only turn it over when it's crisp and golden. If you're not keen on eating fi sh skin, that's probably because you haven't tried it when it's been cooked till it's nice and crispy! It can be as good as pork crackling if done properly.
Brush the bars of the barbie clean to prevent your fish sticking, then light it and get the coals glowing hot. If your barbie is small, feel free to cut the salmon in half to make it more manageable.
Place the salmon skin side down on a plastic board and, using a sharp knife, slash it evenly all over on the fl eshy side, making the incisions about 1/2 inch deep. Scatter the lemon zest and most of the chopped fennel tops or basil over the salmon, then push these fl avorings into the incisions – don’t hold back; really push them in! Rub the fi sh lightly all over with olive oil then season with salt and pepper, giving the skin side a generous amount as most of this will fall off.
When your barbie’s ready, lay the salmon on the bars, skin side down. The flesh will start to color from the bottom up and after about 4 minutes the skin should be beautifully golden brown. Carefully flip the salmon over with a roasting fork or a spatula and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes on the other side. While it’s cooking, gently ease the skin away from the fish and put it on the barbie alongside to crisp up.
If your salmon is wild it will have slightly less fat in it, so will be a drier fi sh. You can therefore cook it for a shorter amount of time, even leaving it slightly undercooked – although this might feel unusual to anyone who nukes fi sh beyond belief. If it’s (organically) farmed, cook it through, but please don’t overcook it or it will become too dry. Lift the salmon carefully off the barbecue and place it on a nice serving platter or board. Allow to cool a little, then break the skin into pieces, a bit like poppadums.
Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, remove and discard the seeds, chop it up and mix it in a bowl with the yogurt. Balance the flavors with the lemon juice, half the chopped chilli, and half the chopped mint or oregano. Drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil. Season carefully to taste with salt and pepper.
Break the salmon up with a fork into four to six chunks. Serve with the cucumber yogurt, sprinkled with the rest of the chopped chilli and the remaining fennel tops or basil. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and make sure everyone gets a piece of the crunchy fi sh skin.
serves: 4 to 6
• 1 x 3-pound side of salmon, scaled and pinboned
• zest and juice of 1 lemon
• a bunch of fresh herby
fennel tops or basil, leaves picked and
• olive oil
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 cucumber, peeled
• lengthwise at intervals
• 1 1/4 cups plain yogurt
• 1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
• a small bunch of fresh
mint or oregano, leaves
picked and chopped
• extra virgin olive oil