Over these last four months, the UK has been in strict lockdown. Slowly but surely, we are on the return to some kind of freedom, so here are some happy thoughts:
- French lessons are continuing with vigour but I can’t say my vocabulary is improving. Yes, we have to speak French throughout every lesson but when we read aloud, I’m so busy coaxing my awkward English tongue into shaping those contrary French words, no meaning enters my brain. And they say women can multi-task. But at least now I can confidently chat away in nonsensical French; it’s all about confidence after all.
- Finally, at long last, we can escape to the seaside and there’s all the associated fun which comes with it – tramping over the sandy dunes and feeling it all trickle into your shoes; queuing for an hour to get our hands on some seaside fish and chips then finding your portion is absolutely not ‘medium’ but you douse it all in salt and vinegar anyway because your eyes are bigger than your belly; drinking coffee on a bench with a view of that blue horizon. (Some of this may not sound that fun, but I’ve been in lockdown, everything is fun right now.)
- Every beach in the UK will have a waiting ice cream van. No matter the season, no matter if you have to wear gloves as you eat and that sea breeze is on the bitter side of brisk, you can buy an ice cream. I saw a young boy with a ball of blue ice cream on a cone and a matching blue tongue (what flavour is blue?) contentedly sitting on a plastic chair on a chilly morning at the seafront. He ignored his family as they strolled off down the promenade; he was happy with his ice cream, dreamily licking away. This epitomises a day at the seaside (not abandoning your children, the ice cream). It was 9°C yesterday and I devoured a 99 Flake – fluffy soft-serve which is essentially a pile of vanilla-flavoured whipped air, with the token Cadbury’s Flake. It has none of the pomp of gelato in hot Rome, but it has just as much significance for it’s sense of location. To forgo ice cream on the beach just because it’s a little chilly is to neglect that British beach experience.
4. Pubs. At last, pubs and restaurants are back. Not that I have a social life other than hanging out with my parents, but the other benefits, of course, are 1) the food and 2) a night off from washing up. My parents aren’t big eating-out fans, whereas I am, oooh yeah I love a restaurant, so we treated ourselves to a night at the pub and sipped Pimm’s in the cold, but a second meal outside in three layers and woolly hat might have to wait.
5. Buttering your salmon (which is not a euphemism). The sentiment of ‘better with butter’ is one I have long adhered to, however for some unknown reason I hadn’t considered butter with my salmon. Influenced by Alison Roman’s recipe, I browned butter in a pan with lemon slices and capers, then poured it all over some salmon fillets before sliding it into the oven. The salmon emerged, soft and flaky, almost swimming again in a sea of butter, over which I scattered basil leaves and fronds of dill. The flesh was moist and tender, and to finish the meal, my mum drizzled that salty lemony sauce over her new potatoes because the potatoes were clearly the inferior factor on the plate.
Roasted buttered salmon
- 45 g butter
- ½ a lemon
- 1 shallot
- 1 tbsp capers
- 30 ml olive oil
- 2 salmon fillets
- 3 sprigs of dill
- Handful of basil leaves
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F. Put the salmon fillets skin down on your baking tray and season with salt and black pepper.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan, preferably one without a non-stick base so you can clearly see the butter’s colour. As it melts, finely slice your lemon and the shallot. Rinse the capers.
- Once the butter is sizzling add the lemon and shallot slices, toss them in the butter and cook for a couple of minutes, until the butter starts to brown. Add the capers and cook for a further minute. Stir in the oil, season, then pour it all over the salmon fillets.
- Put the tray of buttery salmon in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, until the salmon is opaque and the centre is just cooked through.
- Garnish the fish with dill and basil, and serve with potatoes and maybe some pickled red onions.