Monday, 6 September 2010

Planked Salmon with Fennel Two Ways and Burnt Aubergine Puree

Planking salmon

Cowie has a long and distinguished history of buying me awesome cooking gifts, not to mention having built Cassius as well. So when she gave me a collection of cedar planks for Christmas I got giddily excited.

Planking is an old fashioned culinary technique where you cook your meat or fish on a dampened plank of wood, such as cedar, over hot coals. The wet wood emits puffs of steam and smoke that gently encourage the flesh above to yield whilst providing a smoky backdrop. (For more in depth information about planking have a look at this site or buy this book.)

The easiest, and possibly best, thing to cook on a plank is a fillet of salmon. You land up with an indecently moist piece of warm smoky fish that will make you wonder why you’ve been eating boring old poached or grilled salmon for all those years.

We cooked this with a fennel salad which we cevichified from Mark Hix’s book and some burnt aubergine puree that we bastardised from Ottolonghi. And all in a Cornish field with a small BBQ.


1 cedar plank
1 salmon fillet big enough for two with the skin on
Lemon zest
2 aubergines
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of yoghurt
Olive oil
1 fennel bulb
Juice of 2 lemons


Soak your cedar plank in water for anywhere between 2 and 12 hours. This will stop it burning.

Plank soaking

Slice the fennel as thinly as possible. We didn’t have a mandolin on the camp site, surprisingly, so just make sure you’ve got a very sharp knife and haven’t drunk your own body weight in gin and tonic by this stage. Season with salt and pepper and then douse in the juice of 2 lemons.

Slicking fennel

Fennel salad

Light your BBQ. When the coals have stopped flaming throw on two aubgerines and pierce with your knife. Let them burn, Ottolenghi-style, for 20 minutes or until steam is spurting out of the aubergines and the flesh is soft. Remove and leave to cool. Then scoop out the flesh, mash, and mix in the yoghurt, more salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon. You’ll be adding some smoked garlic later…

Descale the salmon and remove any pin bones. Then rinse in cold water. Pat dry. And then season like there’s no tomorrow. Add a few curls of lemon zest.

Seasoning salmon

Place the plank on the coals and when it starts to smoke lay the salmon skin side up on the wood along with 2 cloves of garlic. Add the fennel to the grill and close the lid. Inspect after 10 minutes and turn the fennel. Judge the doneness of the salmon and continue cooking for as long as you like.

Salmon on a plank

Remove from the heat and mash the smoky garlic into the aubergine. Dress the fennel ceviche with some olive oil, shredded mint leaves and check the seasoning. If you’ve got the inclination, remove the salmon skin and place on the grill to crisp up.

Planked salmon on a plank

Serve the salmon from the plank with the two types of fennel and a saucy smacker of smokey aubergine puree.

Planked salmon with fennel

The salmon was softer than an Andrex puppy’s downy ear and subtly smoked. Whilst the fennel was sharp and crunchy on the one hand and charred and sweet on the other.

After a scorching debut I think that planking may well be my new favourite cooking technique. We’ll have to push the boat out next time with some more adventurous recipes…

Further reading:

Epicurious on maple planked salmon
Accidental hedonist on Copper River planked salmon
Man Meat Fire
Cedar Grilling Company - they know a thing or two about planking
Cedar plank recipes from Tasty Timbers
Buy planks in the UK here
How to cut your own cedar grilling planks


Ailbhe said...

That sounds fantastic, I need a plank! Don't you just love camping cooking : )

Jonathan said...

@Ailbhe - Thanks. Get yourself a plank or two and let me know how you get on. It's good fun, easy and tastes awesome.

Lizzie said...

I wish we'd put more effort into on-site cooking when we went camping...

Jonathan said...

@Lizzie - It only took 8 months to plan and a 2000 mile journey. Easy!

Helen said...

Brilliant! You are such an excellent culinary adventurer. I also love the way 'planking' sounds like some kind of deviant sexual behaviour.

Jonathan said...

@Helen - Plank you very much! I was hoping you might steam in with something like that!

eat pictures said...

in so many respects
cedar plank goes straight to the top of my birthday list

Jonathan said...

@Eat Pictures - Thank you very much. Go get those planks.


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