Salmon and beetroot with pine nuts

Recipe by Neil Morris - 07 September 2012

salmon and beetroot

Region: Madrid

Preparation: 1 hour 20 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Oven temp: cook on hob

Difficulty: medium

Serves: 4 (main course)


This salmon and beetroot dish is not necessarily Spanish in origin and many of the ingredients, including the beetroot, would have originally made their way to Spain from North Africa. Variations on this dish can also be found in other cuisines, including French and Italian. This recipe is inspired by a dish I once ate in a Spanish restaurant in London and it was prepared by a chef from Madrid. In Madrid it is normal for home cooks and restaurant chefs to fuse together flavours and influences from other countries.

Salmon and beetroot is a classic combination and here the beetroot is infused with subtle spices to lift the flavour; the addition of the two purees and the pine nuts adds some texture as well as extra flavour.

This recipe could be easily adapted to a starter by leaving out the fish and replacing it with some good quality Manchego cheese and extra salad leaves.

Using beetroot provides a vibrant purple colour that helps with the presentation of the dish and it also happen to match the colour of the regional flag of Madrid!

Shopping list

  • extra virgin olive oil (aceite de oliva virgen extra)
  • 4 large cooked beetroots (remolachas)
  • salmon fillets (filetes de salmón)
  • star anise (anís estrellado)
  • bay leaf (la hoja de laurel)
  • cardamom pods (cardamom vainas)
  • cinnamon stick (canela en rama)
  • red wine (vino tinto)
  • sherry vinegar (de vinagre de jerez)
  • creme fraiche (creme fraiche)
  • horseradish sauce (salsa de rábano picante)
  • lemon juice (zumo de limón)
  • baby salad leaves (hojas de ensalada)
  • pine nuts (piñones)
  • salt (sal)
  • freshly ground black pepper (pimienta recién molida negro)


Tip:I am using ready-cooked beetroot here, if you are using fresh then you will need to boil it for an hour or so and then remove the skins.

Thinly slice half of the beetroots and dice the rest into 1 cm cubes. Pour half a bottle of fruity table wine into a saucepan along with the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, star anise, bay leaf and a few peppercorns. Heat gently for about 10 minutes without boiling and then remove from the heat. Add the beetroot to the wine mixture, cover and leave to stand for an hour.

Toast 2 tablespoons of pine nuts in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for a minute or so until just starting to colour, then transfer to a pestle and mortar. Allow to cool for a few minutes and then crush carefully; you want them to be crushed but not powdery and with no large pieces. Once they are a crumb-like consistency stir in a pinch of salt and some freshly-ground black pepper.

In a small jug, mix together 3 tablespoons of creme fraiche with 1 tablespoon of horseradish sauce and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add a tiny pinch of salt and some black pepper to taste and mix again. Taste the sauce as you go and add more lemon or seasoning if needed. Set aside.

Remove half of the cubed beetroot from the wine and add to a blender with 1 teaspoon of sherry vinegar, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of the creme fraiche mix. Blend well until smooth and then taste, adding a pinch of seasoning if needed. The puree will still be grainy at this stage but should not be too stodgy; if it feels too thick then add another splash of olive oil and sherry vinegar and blend until just right. Now pass the mixture through a sieve into a bowl; do this a few spoonfuls at a time, scraping the puree off the underside of the sieve each time. Set aside.

Remove the rest of the cubed beetroot from the wine and leave in a sieve to drain for a few minutes. Remove the beetroot slices and carefully sprinkle the pine nut mix on one side of them until they are coated.

Now rub a small amount of oilve oil into your salmon fillets and season with salt and black pepper. Leave to stand for a few minutes. Fry the salmon skin-side down in a medium to hot pan for about 4-5 minutes, avoid moving it during this time as you may break the skin. Use a flat metal palette knife to lift one end of the salmon and check if the skin is crispy, if it is, turn the salmon over and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. If you like your salmon well done you can also cook for an extra minute or so on the sides. Place on a plate covered in kitchen towel whilst preparing the plates.

To serve your salmon and beetroot dish, drop and drag a dollop of each sauce on the plate and place a slice of beetroot covered in pine nuts at the tail end of each. Careful place a few beetroot cubes around the plate and place the salmon in the middle. Finally scatter with a few salad leaves and serve.

Put any remaining sauce and salad in side bowls for guests to help themselves.

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