Tag Archives: fall

Fall menu: Blackened salmon with pumpkin fries and mango sauce

I love salmon. Smoked, poached, baked, grilled, in papillotte…  I wouldn’t know which way to choose. And while preparing salmon is pretty easy, it’s not always easy to decide what to serve it with. That’s my experience, at least. Sure, I love smoked salmon quiche with broccoli and goat cheese, and there’s plenty of classical salmon recipes, but every once in a while, we want something different, no? So I revisited one of my favorite ways to prepare salmon, which is blackened salmon. It’s a recipe that originated in Cajun cooking, in which the salmon is rubbed in a thick layer of spices and then baked, creating a ‘blackened’ spicy crust. Mmmm, I could hardly wait for dinner time once I decided I would make this.

But what to serve with it? There’s the problem. I once ate blackened tuna with mango sauce in Cactus Taverna, a great restaurant in Salisbury. But good fresh tuna is hard and expensive to find in Belgium, and I try to avoid tuna since it’s going extinct due to overfishing.  I decided to go for blackened salmon with mango sauce, and be bold and try out pumpkin and sweet potato as vegetable sides to balance the spicyness. Exciting! As it was kind of an experiment, I looked up a few ways to make blackened tuna, mango sauce and sweet potato baked fries on Tastespotting (always a great source of inspiration, if just for the wonderful pictures).

The result was delicious. There’s the spicy, slightly crunchy salmon, balanced by the sweet and mild mango. The earthy but flavorful pumpkin and sweet potato chips, also slightly spicy, make for a great balance. I have yet to perfect an elegant way to serve the plate, but the taste was surprisingly complementary. Do try at home!

Blackened salmon spices
Making the mango sauce


Fall vegetables
Pumpkin and sweet potato fries


Coating the salmon with spices
Baking the blackened salmon












The result: blackened salmon with pumpkin fries and mango sauce


Recipe for four people:

For the blackened salmon:

-four pieces of fresh salmon, preferably bio/organic

-spices: black and white pepper, salt, paprika, thyme, basil, rosemary, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, ground dry chili flakes or spicy chily powder, cayenne pepper (you’re free to improvise according to your own pantry here)


For the mango sauce:

-Two very ripe mangos

-Juice of one lime

For the pumpkin and sweet potato fries:

-Half of a small, flavorful pumpkin (I used a chestnut pumpkin)

-2-3 sweet potatoes (I actually didn’t have real sweet potatoes but some kind of in-between Turkish long potato I picked up at the local store)

-olive oil

-salt and pepper, dried herbs such as thyme, rosemary, basil, some spicy chili powder

Start cooking!

Start with the pumpkin and sweet potato as they will take the longest. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (about 400 F). Peel the pumpkin and potatoes and cut into long fry-shaped wedges. Put them on a metal oven-proof platter covered with a sheet of parchment paper. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and spices, toss carefully so everything is covered. Put in the oven and let bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the fries are soft but still have bite (this depends on the kind of vegetables, your oven…)

While the vegetables are in the oven, start with the mango sauce. Peel the mangoes and cut them into cubes. Put in a mixer bowl with the freshly squeezed lime juice. Mix until you have a thick, fluid sauce. Keep the sauce ready in a saucepan to heat before you’re serving.

Cut the salmon into the desired amount of pieces if necessary. Mix all the spices. I don’t use an exact formula but I tend to start with the first listed in the largest quantities, then move down to smaller quantities, depending on how spicy you like the crust to be. When the mixture is ready, heat up a pan (a grill pan is also possible, try to use one that conducts heat well, like a cast iron) and let some of the butter melt at a low temperature. Take the salmon and sweep it through the butter on both sides, then through the spice mixture.  Put a little more butter into the pan (you don’t need to smother the salmon, just so the crust won’t burn) and heat it up. When the butter is hot and melted, put the wedges of salmon into the pan and bake on both sides until the insides are done (not overdone, it really is a shame to ruin salmon by letting it get too dry, so check regularly on the inside of it’s still rosy).

Put the salmon on a (warm) plate, arrange the fries around it or underneath and top with some hot mango sauce. Yum!

Fall menu: hors d’oeuvre and soup

My cooking class was canceled for today! Due to three non-functioning elevators. Must be the lamest excuse I’ve heard since ‘soccer game is canceled because of the rain’ in US High School. But, no class. Thank you, Vlaamse Gemeenschapscommissie for putting down a brand new ‘cook tower’ for the Anderlecht hotel school with really bad elevators.

Anyway, this means I have time for a new blog post! I’ve been waiting for a while until I found time to write something about the fall menu I’ve been working on the past two weekends. Seasonal cooking is not just hip this days, but also more environmentally responsible. So here we go! I made two menus: one for a lovely evening at home and one for our ‘housewarming dinner’ with the parents…

Hors d’oeuvre: herb-filled portobello mushroom (recipe courtesy of delicious. magazine – no picture of my own, they were gone before I could find my camera, sorry!)

Ingredients for six people:

6 portobello mushrooms

4 spoonfuls of fresh herbs (I used parsley and mint, but try your own combination if you like!)

3 spoonfuls of (old) bread crumbs

40 grams (more or less) of freshly grated parmezan cheese

olive oil, salt and pepper


preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Remove the stems of the mushrooms and chop them coarsely. Put the mushrooms with their hollow sides up on a baking sheet and sprinkle with some olive oil and salt and pepper (this is not in the recipe, but I find otherwise they’re a little dry). Mix chopped mushroom stems with chopped herbs, cheese and breadcrumbs and stuff the mushrooms with this. Sprinkle with more olive oil and put into the oven for 15 minutes until the stuffing is golden brown.

Great as a hors d’oeuvre, but my guests found it a little difficult to eat without fork and knife. Better serve it on a plate. Very veggie-approved!

For the entree, I made two types of soup. I’ll give the tomato soup recipe here and keep the pumpkin-carrot-sweet potato soup for another time.


Tomato soup with mozzarella and basil garnish

Tomato soup with melting mozzarella balls and basil garnish (mozzarella idea from delicious. magazine)

Recipe (for a good amount of soup)

This soup is bound by using a bit of flour and making a sort of roux with the basic soup vegetables already in it. Start by melting some butter and add a chopped onion and some chopped celery. You can add some thyme, parsley and laurel (bouquet garni). Then add two spoonfuls of regular flour and stir around for a minute or two so the starch is ‘cooked’ and won’t taste of flour. Add in a small can of tomato concentrate and stir for another minute. Then add in a kilo (about 2 pounds) of flavorful tomatoes (I used the last-of-the-season cherry and plum tomatoes from my parents’ greenhouse) and let heat on the fire. Add in a 500 ml can of chopped tomatoes and about two liters ofcold vegetable stock, I use two cubes per liter (for a roux, one of the two parts always needs to be hot while the other is cold to make it work, if you want to know why better ring up a scientist friend ’cause I have no idea) Let it come to a boil and simmer for a while. Add in pepper, salt and herbs to taste (if the tomatoes are sufficiently tasty this is hardly necessary) and mix the soup with a blender or mixer. If you don’t want tomato skins, put through a conical strainer. Little trick: put your mixer into the strainer, the soup will go through much faster! (You can see in the picture that my soup is kind of thick because I have no conical strainer – yet!)

Heat up some small mozzarella balls (usually bought to skewer with cherry tomatoes but also delicious as garnish!) in a warm oven for a few minutes until slightly melted and then add into the soup. Garnish with a bit of fresh basil. Yum!

Now I’m about to catch up with some episodes of inspector Frost – as soon as I find time (or as soon as the school’s elevators refuse to function again), my very own recipe of blackened salmon with pumpkin and sweet potato fries and Jamie Oliver’s red wine and mushroom risotto will follow!