LIMEY CORNY SALMON BAKE
6 sweetcorn cobs 1 tablespoon cumin seeds 1 tablespoon coriander seeds 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon ground turmeric ½ teaspoon ground black pepper 6 x 250g skinless salmon fillets 4 limes 3 tablespoons olive oil large handful of coriander leaves 1 chilli, sliced (optional)
First: chargrill your corn cobs. I find that the easiest way to do this quickly is on a gas cooktop. Put an old wire rack over a medium flame and crowd your cobs onto it, so they’re right in the flame. Turn them as they brown and blister, ensuring all sides of them get a bit of the heat. You can balance them directly on the hob but it’s messier, plus you get red-hot corn cobs rolling everywhere – good comedy potential, but annoying if you’re pushed for time. Once all the cobs are done, set them aside to cool. (If you don’t have a gas cooktop but you do have a barbecue, use that instead. And if you have neither, just cook the cobs under a hot grill, turning regularly.)
Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry frying pan until fragrant, stirring often so they don’t burn, then tip the lot into a large mortar and pestle, along with the salt. Grind to a powder, then stir in the ground ginger, turmeric and black pepper.
Choose an ovenproof dish that will hold your salmon fillets snugly, obliging them to overlap each other a bit; overlap is key here. Line the dish: no greasing or anything, you just want a big sheet of baking paper scrunched up then straightened out and laid over the dish. Now, take half of your spice mix and rub it all over the salmon fillets. Lay them – you guessed it – overlapping on top of the baking paper.
Back to the corn. With a big sharp knife, cut the kernels from the cobs. (I keep the cobs because they make an excellent addition to stock for Chinese soups, but you need not share this particular behavioural quirk.) With luck, some of the kernels will come off in big sheets. Tuck these between, under and on top of the salmon fillets. Don’t feel all teary and inadequate if the kernels just crumble off, though; it’s no biggie. Put the rest of the corn into a bowl for the salsa. Zest one of the limes into the bowl, then juice that lime and one of its friends and add that too. Stir in half of the olive oil and the rest of your spice mix. If you’re prepping in advance, cover with plastic wrap and chill until needed.
Juice the other two limes and whisk with the rest of the olive oil. Drizzle this over the salmon in the dish, which is now oven-ready: you can cover the dish with plastic wrap and consign it to the fridge, or cook it straightaway. Either way, it needs about 20 minutes in a preheated 200°C (180°C fan) oven, or until the salmon is just starting to brown around the edges – be careful not to overcook it.
At the last minute, toss the coriander leaves through the salsa and add the chilli, if using. Top the baked salmon with large dollops of salsa: you want a riotously colourful and loaded look, not just a sprinkle. Serve straight from the dish at the table, with any remaining salsa on the side so people can help themselves.