Magical midsummer cooking at Salon in Brixton

As Midsummer approaches, we’ve been celebrating the warmer days with divine summery dishes (and a glass or two of sparkling rosé wine) at Salon in Brixton Market.

Food: magical midsummer cooking at Salon in Brixton

Head Chef Nicholas Balfe (pictured below) combines culinary flavours and textures to truly magical effect, and his passion for using the freshest seasonal produce even extends to foraging for wild garlic and elderflowers in his Loughborough Junction neighbourhood.

Salon offers an a la carte menu, but we recommend the four course set menu or recently introduced seven course extended menu – quite simply because you’ll want to taste every single dish on offer.

The restaurant’s vibe is laid-back and eccentric – there’s an open kitchen, and our slightly rickety wooden chairs and table were in a cosy corner overlooking the buzzy Market arcade – but this is seriously good cooking, beautifully presented.

Food: magical midsummer cooking at Salon in Brixton

Highlights included the Kale tempura (deliciously light and served with cute dollops of anchovy puree) and the Peas, sorrel and wild garlic salad (perfectly ripe Suffolk-grown peas served straight from the pod, with fresh pea shoots, wild garlic emulsion and refreshing sorrel granita).

Our stand-out dish however was the wonderfully moist and flavoursome Yorkshire poussin – a cool twist on a Caesar salad with its anchovy breadcrumbs and warm Romaine lettuce leaves.  For pudding, the first gooseberries of the season were sweetened with an elderflower sorbet and buttermilk mousse, and then there is also a lemon-flavoured delight – a plate of citrus creations varying from sweet to sour, from a crumbly lemon polenta cake to delicate lemon verbena-flavoured jelly, served with the perfect mouthful of meringue.

Nicholas and his staff were on hand to talk us through the provenance and creation of each dish – his enthusiasm for creating memorably original seasonal dishes was captivating (and we were happy to hear that he’s bottled enough of his delicious home-made wild garlic oil to last him until the end of the month at least!)

For more information, visit salonbrixton.co.uk. Below, Nicholas shares his delicious recipe for Clams with almond, asparagus and Nduja.

Food: magical midsummer cooking at Salon in Brixton

Clams with almond, asparagus and Nduja

Shellfish and spicy cured meats are fantastic counterparts, as are asparagus and almonds. All four together might seem somewhat unfamiliar, but in fact the flavours and textures work perfectly.

SERVES 4

Clams

 

Ingredients

500g Palourde clams

100g Nduja, or spicy cured sausage, such as chorizo, roughly chopped

a glass of white wine

a bunch of asparagus (6-8 spears), tough ends trimmed off, sliced into 1cm rounds

a handful of chervil or parsley, chopped

100g flaked almonds

a pinch of paprika

a drizzle of olive oil

sea salt

Almond sauce

 

Ingredients

125g ground almonds

a garlic clove, very finely chopped

200ml water

150ml rapeseed oil

50ml olive oil

a splash sherry vinegar

sea salt

Method

1 First, make the almond sauce. In a blender or food processor, process the ground almonds and garlic, adding the water gradually so it forms a paste.

2 With the processor running, gradually pour in the rapeseed oil, then the olive oil until you have a sauce that’s similar in consistency to thick cream. Finally, add the sherry vinegar to cut through the richness, and a pinch of salt for seasoning.

3 Set aside until needed. (This will give you more almond sauce than you need for this recipe, but it’s great as a dressing or dip for spring/summer vegetables, such as courgettes, radishes, new potatoes and broad beans, or as an accompaniment to grilled white fish.)

4 Now,rinse the clams thoroughly under cold running water for 10 minutes or more to remove any grit that might be caught in the shells. Drain out the water, and go through the clams and discard any with broken shells, or that don’t close when tapped on a hard surface.

5 Using a flat baking tray, briefly toast the almonds in a hot oven along with some olive oil, the paprika and a pinch of salt. 6-8 minutes should do it. Set aside. You can do this well in advance too.

6 Heat a large saucepan with a lid over a high heat until it’s very hot. Add a splash of olive oil, then the Nduja. Cook for a moment so the fat begins to render, then add the clams, followed by the wine.

7 Cover with a lid and cook for a further two minutes. Give the pan a shake, then remove the lid, and toss in the asparagus. Put the lid back on and cook for another minute or so. By now the clams should have steamed open, their juices melding with the spicy Nduja fat.

8 Add the chervil, and give the whole thing a good stir. Check the seasoning – add a pinch of salt if you need to.

9 Take four large bowls, and place a couple of spoons of the almond sauce in the middle of each. Arrange some clams and asparagus around the edge of the bowl, and pour over plenty of the juices. Finish with a sprinkling of the toasted almonds.

By Rosalind Lowe