Salmon in Butter and Lemon

  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Serves: 4
  • Level: easy

‘ …This is quick, simple and super tasty with minimum fuss. Dad’s guide below is all you need – and the ingredients in the picture of course.’

Leo Williamson
'No recipe, just a guide explaining how to cook these ingredients to perfection...'

What you need

Salmon fillets – buy according to appetite and numbers eating (allow 175g – 200g per portion)

New potatoes (allow approx 200g per person)

Greens (allow approx 150g per person – or half a small head of broccoli)



Dad's Recipe Tales

Salmon, new potatoes, greens

A classic combination. Just fish, butter, lemon and a couple of sides.

This is what I ordered the first time I ‘entertained’ a corporate client – we were eating at The Duke on the Green in Parson’s Green, London.

The lunch was like an initiation. I felt nervous and awkward. I remember desperately trying to avoid the tell-tale signs of a corporate-entertaining greenhorn: fidgeting and rattling of cutlery; dripping beads of sweat on forehead and over-earnest desire to impress with banal questions about work. But he took no notice. He was a no-nonsense ‘Northerner’ and had no time for small talk – he was simply going out to get lunch.

You had to admire his nonchalant ability to breeze into a restaurant, glance at the menu and immediately call-out an order: Salmon please! (I was keen to explore the menu, but swept along by his confident decision-making, I also ordered the salmon.) His casual attitude and off-hand disregard for ‘Southern’ airs and graces was irresistibly calming and helped to guide my passage into the world of corporate entertaining.

‘Our’ salmon seemed very posh and rather excellent at the time. It’s a testament for those who believe there is no better way to cook fish than frying it in a pan with butter and lemon.  I make it often and am always reminded of my rite of passage in the Duke on the Green.

How Dad Cooked It

There is no recipe – cook salmon, potatoes and greens, add lashings of butter and lemon – garnish if you like with chives, dill or parsley, season with salt and pepper. It’s all about technique and ingredients. The dish is simple but elegant. To ensure it retains its elegance the side dishes must be cooked to perfection. I pride myself on my side dishes as much as my mains.

  1. Salmon. Either de-scale if there is skin or take the skin off (push a sharp knife into the end of the fillet and slice the knife down flat and parallel with the chopping board. Hold the skin down with fingers or use a cloth to hold the skin – continue slicing and working the knife flat against the skin). I prefer to keep the skin on and try to make it crispy. It also helps protect the flesh and provides even and gentle cooking. Using a medium heat, heat a thin layer of vegetable oil, or light olive oil, in a non-stick pan. Put the fillet in the pan skin-side down. Watch the edge of the fish – the fish becomes opaque when cooked: when the fillet has cooked three quarters of the way up the fillet, turn it over. When it is nearly cooked turn it over again and add several knobs of butter. Using a spoon baste the fillet with butter. Prod with a knife to see if it is cooked through to the middle of the fillet. When it is cooked squeeze a half lemon over the fillet – season and remove the fish from the pan onto warm plate to rest for a moment. Swirl the butter and lemon in the pan to emulsify. Pour over the fish and serve, garnished with either dill, parsley or chives. NB: Serve with plenty of lemon on the side – otherwise the butter will be cloying. Alternatively, a wine and butter sauce can be made which will help dilute the effect of the butter. Or replace the wine with chicken or fish stock. The wine or stock sauces can also be turned into cream sauces using crème fraiche or single cream – flavour with tarragon.
  2. Potatoes. The best potatoes for this simple dish are new potatoes. I do not peel them – wash and put into a pan filled with cold water. Boil gently until tender. Drain and serve.
  3. Greens. I cook greens in any number of ways depending on the meal, my appetite and mood. For this meal I would boil and refresh. Cook the greens in a large pan of salted boiling water, cook for just two or three minutes in order to retain some crispness and bite. When using a mix of greens put the vegetables into the cooking pan according to how quickly they cook in relation to each other – here broccoli goes in first – and then frozen peas are added at the last minute. Drain and plunge into plenty of very cold water.  Wait for two minutes and drain again. As the photograph above shows, this method will help to keep the greens looking bright green. When ready to serve, put the greens in a covered wok with a little water and a knob of butter. Heat and steam until just warmed through.
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