From a very young age, one of Neven's favourite pastimes was to shadow his mother in the kitchen, watching her cook; his pastime soon became ...
12 asparagus spears (trimmed)
4 x 175g (6oz) skinless salmon fillets (each about 1" thick)
small bunch fresh dill (stalks removed, plus sprigs reserved to garnish)
4 slices parma ham
1/2 lemon (pips removed)
1 tblsp olive oil
25 g butter
for the dressing:
12 semi sun-dried tomatoes (roughly chopped)
200 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
pinch chilli powder
3 fresh basil leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
lightly dressed wild rocket leaves, to serve
Farmed salmon has become much better quality over the years and in my opinion some of the best available comes from Ireland where sea is always freezing cold, for the most part unpolluted with strong tidal flows. Make sure your salmon fillets are at all even-sized and about 2.5cm (1in) thick to ensure even cooking. They also work well on the barbecue and can made up to 12 hours in advance, covered with clingfilm and chilled until needed, just don’t add the squeeze of lemon juice until you are ready to cook them.
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F/Gas 5). To make the semi sun-dried tomato dressing, place the sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor or liquidiser with the olive oil, lemon juice, chilli powder and basil leaves and blend for about 1 minute until you have achieved a fairly smooth texture. Transfer to a bowl and season to taste. Cover with clingfilm and chill until ready to use - this can be made up to 24 hours in advance.
Blanch the asparagus spears in a pan of boiling salted water for 1 minute. Drain and quickly refresh, then tip into a bowl of ice-cold water to cool completely. Drain well and pat dry on kitchen paper.
Season each salmon fillet and arrange three asparagus spears, trimming them down as necessary and a few dill fronds on top of each one. Lightly wrap a slice of Parma ham around each bundle and place in a shallow non-metallic dish. Drizzle over a little of the dressing and add a squeeze of lemon juice.
Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof frying pan and add the butter. Once it stops foaming, add the salmon wraps presentation-side down and cook for 2 minutes on each side to seal. Transfer to the oven and roast for another 10 minutes, turning once, until the salmon wraps are cooked through and golden brown.
To serve, arrange the salmon wraps on warmed serving plates. Quickly whisk the dressing until combined and then spoon on top. Garnish with the reserved dill sprigs. Place a small mound of the rocket leaves to the side.