pan fried salmon served w mashed pumpkin + a salad of orange, fennel + walnut | easy + elegant + tasty

I’ve given myself an unofficial mystery box challenge it seems like. A good friend of mine gave me a huge pile of oranges from her abundant tree and a pumpkin so big that I was determined to come up with a dish that used both ingredients. A fan of Masterchef over the past decade, I love playing the game “what would I make?” in every challenge.

Freshly squeezed orange juice, Thai style pumpkin soup, a simple orange cake and a Moroccan tagine are on the menu this week and I’ll be roasting pumpkin for use in lunchtime salads, teamed up with brown rice and pine nuts. I’m also determined to cook duck, as I never have before. I’ll have to organise a dinner party soon. Duck a’ l’orange anyone?

I love using fruit in salads, hence the orange, fennel and walnut salad I made for dinner last night, but Cork Daddy doesn’t go much on it (and neither does Lach – Georgie tells me). A little bit of fennel goes a long way too. I made a similar salad to this one a few years ago using mandarins and beetroot which was also a winner in my book. I LOVE salmon fillets simply pan fried in a bit of olive oil, seasoned with some salt and pepper. We have salmon cooked this way for dinner a lot.

The mashed pumpkin was inspired by my Mum. For as long as I can remember, Mum has been making mashed potato, mashed sweet potato and mashed pumpkin for dinner, served up with whatever meat was on offer. I always throw in a couple of spuds to the mashed pumpkin as once boiled, it lets out a lot of moisture so can be very runny once mashed. All it needs is a good seasoning of white pepper and a generous amount of butter. Butter, butter and butter (said in my appalling French accent).

This lovely combo of fish, pumpkin and citrusy salad makes for a delicious mid week meal as it’s really simple and easy cooking, and is sure to impress when you have guests over for dinner.

A simple take on the ol’ mystery box. Not sure if my humble dish would have impressed the judges, but somewhere deep down, I reckon it would’ve got me through to the next round.

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pan fried salmon served w mashed pumpkin + a salad of orange + fennel + walnut (serves 2)

2 x salmon fillets (with the skin on)
A dash of olive oil, for frying the salmon
Salt and freshly cracked pepper

  • Get started on making the mashed pumpkin (see instructions below).
  • Make the salad (see instructions below).
  • Once the mashed pumpkin and salad are ready to go – pan fry the salmon. Do this by heating a non stick fry pan over a medium to high heat, season the salmon well with salt and pepper, add a dash of olive oil and place the salmon fillets skin side down in the pan.
  • Cook until golden brown and until the skin starts to crisp up nicely. (This should take about 4-5 minutes).
  • Flip the fish over and cook for another 3 minutes on the bottom side.
  • Check to see that the fish is cooked properly by carefully opening up the bottom side of the salmon. (You want the ‘rawness’ from the inside to have gone, but still want it to be nice and blushing.
  • To serve – dollop a good amount of pumpkin on to the plate, place the fish on top and some salad on the side.

This dish goes nicely with a glass of freezing cold white wine or rose.

mashed pumpkin

A good chunk of Kent or Butternut pumpkin*, peeled and chopped in to rough chunks
2 x potatoes, peeled and chopped in to rough chunks
A good seasoning of white pepper
A good knob of butter
Salt (for cooking the vegetables in salted boiling water)

  • Boil the potatoes and pumpkin in salted boiling water until softened.
  • Drain the vegetables, add a good knob of butter and season well with white pepper.
  • Mash using a potato masher.
  • Keep warm.

salad of orange + fennel + walnut

1 x orange, peeled and segmented (see images below)
1/4 of a piece of fennel, stems very finely sliced and reserving some of the fennel fronds (see images below)
A small handful of walnuts
A small handful of baby spinach leaves
A drizzle of good quality olive oil
A drizzle of good quality red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly cracked pepper

  • Simply throw the orange, fennel, walnuts and spinach together in a bowl.
  • Season with salt and pepper and drizzle some olive oil and red wine vinegar over the top. Toss.

Lo’s tips

  • I always make more mash than needed as I like having it lefted over in the fridge for the girls’ dinner the following night.
  • If you’re using frozen salmon fillets (and don’t have time to defrost them), simply run them under the hot tap (whilst keeping them in their individual cryovac’ed packaging) until defrosted.
  • You could also use a firm white fish fillet instead, such as basa, cod, barramundi or snapper.
  • You could use mandarins instead of oranges.
  • You can substitute the baby spinach leaves with rocket leaves.
  • If you’ve made the mashed pumpkin ahead of time (which I highly suggest you do) you can zap it in the microwave just before serving.
  • If you’re wanting to be organised before your guests arrive, have all of the salad ingredients laid out (see image below) but don’t throw it all in together until the last minute as the ‘wetness’ of the orange will spoil the walnuts.

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If you make this mashed pumpkin, please leave your comments below. xx

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