Poached Salmon with Beetroot, Grains, Apple and Horseradish

Sometimes it’s wise to listen to your body. Yesterday I was trying hard to hear what mine was saying. I could have sworn in the afternoon it was muttering ”duck, duck’. I had an overwhelming urge to sequester myself in the corner of our local Chinese restaurant with a whole Peking glazed bird, a duvet of pancakes, pool of hoisin sauce and not come up until all the bones were picked clean.

It turns out my body was probably saying something else- It wasn’t duck- most probably something else that rhymed with that.

And yet, off we went to Chinese. I ate an embarrassing amount of fowl- and crispy pork belly, greens and bitter melon and rice. And then woke up the following morning with a dizzy head, shaking hands and a dry mouth. Essentially I felt  like I’d hoovered three bottles of chardonnay (for anyone who’s worried about me and my pregnant drinking- I didn’t). Who knows what it was- but I felt wretched.

And so; I’m making an effort to listen a little harder.

Beetroot. Poached salmon. The nose clearing gifts of horseradish. Apple. Greens. These were the things my body was quietly whispering for.

This is the sort of lunch that lithe Scandinavians should eat while weighing up by which fjord they will take Saturday’s nature hike. It’s restrained, bold and beautiful, with the grains taking on a shocking fuchsia hue and musty sweetness from the pureed beetroots. You could use a fashionable grain like spelt or faro- quinoa would also be lovely. But I’ve gone for the slight dowdiness of pearl barley. For one, it’s terrifyingly cheap. For two- it was in the cupboard.

The apple is there for some crisp freshness and crunch. The leaves should have a bitter note, for balance. And the dairy is key- it, along with the horseradish it brings it all together. I’ve gone for cottage cheese- despite its daggy reputation, I’m quite fond of these bland little curds. And then there’s the fish. Some smoked trout would work, or smoked salmon – by the same token, so would any fillet of pink fish crisp from the grill. But there’s something soothing about poaching a salmon. It just quietly goes about its business, before offering you little pages of protein to unfurl where ever it’s  going to be most useful.

Today, that’s here. A bowl of this, a few cups of tea and a long walk by the river and now- now, when I try to quiet the buzzy torrent inside my head, of plans and procrastination, all I hear is a gentle hum of satisfaction. Thanks to this; I feel better.

Poached Salmon with Beetroot, Grains, Apple and Horseradish

 Serves 2  very hungry ones, or 4 as a lighter lunch


2 cups of cooked pearl barley/spelt or quinoa
4 small cooked beetroots (either roasted or simmered in their skins for 1-1.5 hours, then peeled)- about 300 grams of beets in total (nb, you could also get a leg up and buy the vacuum packed beets that are available in UK supermarkets, or substitute with a pot of good quality beetroot dip)
1 pink lady apple, cored and cut into very slim slices
2 fillets of salmon (around 240-300 grams of salmon in total)
3 tbsp of cottage cheese/Greek yoghurt/Creme Fraiche
2 tsp horseradish puree
2 large handfuls of salad leaves- a mix of watercress, rocket and baby spinach is nice

Here’s how we roll

1) Poach your salmon. Place the fillets in a pan with enough warm water to come half way up the fish and bring it to a gentle simmer. Cook until the flesh is opaque half way through, then turn the fish over, turn the heat off and place a lid or a plate over the pan. Allow to stand until it is cooked through and the fillet will flake apart- be sure to remove the skin before serving. While crisp salmon skin is lovely, poached is something that belongs more closely in cat food.

2) Take three of your beets and puree them using a stick blender. Combine with the cooked grains in a pan. Stir to combine and warm them through.

3) Begin to assemble your salads. Place the scarlet beetroot grains in the bottom of the bowl. Slice the remaining cooked beet into small pieces and divide it between the bowls.

4) Ring the pearl barley with salad leaves and apple slices.

5) Mix together  the cottage cheese/yoghurt and 1 tsp of horseradish. Taste (horseradish can vary in intensity). If you think it can handle more, add another tsp. You want this to be quite strident. Divide the horseradish sauce between bowls.

6) Flake the poached salmon over the top and season with some salt and pepper.


  1. I love the color of the pearl barley! At first I thought they were pomegranate seeds, which could actually work with poached salmon come to think of it:..

  2. Such an amazing, fresh meal. Goodness. I wish more people in my house liked fish!

  3. I love horseradish and can’t get enough salmon! This is wonderful, good work!

  4. That sucks that you felt so bad after Chinese 🙁 Glad you feel better though!! This looks amazing, as usual – totally scandinavian! 🙂 xxx

  5. I love the look of those pureed beets with the pearl barley! The whole dish looks just perfect- satisfying without being too much, fresh and earthy, sweet with a bit of heat. I can’t wait to try it!

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