I am no health-food nut, but I do love food that is both delicious and promises to do wonders for you. Preserving and pickling, for example, deepen flavour and encourage fermentation, which in turn produces friendly bacteria that are essential for good gut health. So, this week, I'm using preserved lemon to add piquant interest to a gutsy dressing for sea trout, and briefly pickled beetroot that's transformed by a creamy honey and Dijon dressing and the gentle anise notes of tarragon. Fingers crossed there'll be some sun to add to the mix, too.
Sea trout with preserved lemon, black olive and raisin dressing
The gentle flavours of sea trout are brought to life by a mouth-watering sweet-sour, Sicilian-style relish. If you can pick wild fennel by a roadside (if you're lucky enough to live in Sicily, say) or in a windowbox, that would be ideal; otherwise, the fronds from the fennel bulb will do. Serves four.
3 tbsp raisins
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
½ fennel bulb, outer layer removed, diced
30g preserved lemon
15 juicy Kalamata olives, destoned
1 big handful mint leaves
1 big handful flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 small handful fennel fronds
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
Juice of ½ lemon
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little vegetable oil for frying
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 sea trout fillets
Put the raisins in a small bowl, pour over enough boiling water to cover and leave to plump up. Put the shallots and fennel in a bowl. Put the preserved lemon, olives and herbs on a big board and chop together until they're all roughly the size of the chopped shallots. Drain the raisins and add to the bowl with the chopped herb mix, vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil. Stir, season to taste (preserved lemon varies in its saltiness) and add more lemon juice if the flavours need brightening up.
Put a large frying pan on a medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of vegetable oil. When smoking hot, lightly season the fish on both sides and lay skin-side down in the hot pan. Fry for a couple of minutes, until you can see the skin crisping up, then flip and cook for one to two minutes longer for pink, or three if you prefer it cooked through.
Serve with buttered new potatoes, greens and relish spooned on top.
Beetroot salad with tarragon, Dijon dressing and soft-boiled egg
The eggs are a great foil for the sweet pickled beetroot and creamy dressing. Tarragon, a herb that is particularly good in summer, turns the whole dish into something really rather special. Serves four to six.
5 medium beetroots, scrubbed
200ml red-wine vinegar
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 bunch fresh tarragon
2 banana shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 large handfuls watercress
2 baby gem lettuce
For the dressing
3 tbsp red-wine vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, peeled
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
75ml extra-virgin olive oil
75ml sunflower oil
Bring a pan of salted water to a boil, add the beetroots and cook for 30-40 minutes, until you can easily insert a sharp knife (the timing will depend entirely on their size). Drain, reserving a cup of cooking liquid in the pan. Add the vinegar and sugar, heat through for a minute or two, until the sugar dissolves, then pour into a large, sterilised jar that will comfortably fit the beets. Drop in a few tarragon sprigs and the shallots. Don a pair of rubber gloves, rub away the beetroot peel and cut into quarters. Drop into the vinegar mix, seal and leave in the fridge overnight. The beets will keep for weeks and improve over time.
Put the vinegar, honey, mustard and garlic in a food processor, and season generously. With the motor running, add the olive oil, a few drops at a time at first and then in a thin, steady stream. Once incorporated, add the sunflower oil in a thin, steady stream until you have a glossy emulsified dressing. If the dressing splits, just whizz in a few tablespoons of cold water, which will bring it back together. You may want to do this anyway, to thin the dressing and make it easier to pour. The dressing should be like thick double cream, and easily coat a wooden spoon. Season to taste: you may want to add a touch more honey, mustard, vinegar or salt.
Put the eggs in a small saucepan of boiling water, cook at a gentle simmer for eight minutes, then drain and plunge in cold running water (or iced cold water) for a few minutes. Leave to cool, then crack, peel and cut each egg in half.
Strip a small handful of tarragon from its stalks and roughly chop. Wash and dry the watercress and lettuce. Arrange half the beet and shallot pieces over the lettuce and cress (save the rest for some other time). Cover with the eggs and scatter over the tarragon. Spoon over generous rivulets of the shiny dressing and serve.
And for the rest of the week"...
The Sicilian-inspired trout dressing also goes really well with lamb or pork chops, roast cauliflower and a whole lot more, including mild cheese such as Lancashire " just experiment with any ingredient you fancy giving a bit of sweet-sour action. The beets are lovely for snacking on just as they are, or for slicing and adding to a Scandi-style open sandwich with goat's curd and some pickled shallot. If you have any leftover raw beetroot, use it while it's fresh for breakfast juices: my favourite, Mexico's Vampiro, combines beet with carrot, parsley, apple, orange and fresh lime, and is totally delicious as well as being absurdly good for you
Thomasina Miers is co-owner of the Wahaca group of Mexican restaurants.