Baked salmon with pistachio and honey crust

Ingredients to serve 4
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50g shelled pistachios
30g stale bread
1 tablespoon rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 salmon steaks, or one piece of salmon (about 600g)
4 teaspoons honey
4 teaspoons olive oil

For the parsnip purée

500g parsnips, cut into large chunks
25g butter
2–4 tablespoons milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper

I was shown this slightly unusual combination of salmon and parsnips by two Italian chefs. It's a modern fusion of ingredients because, except in the far north, parsnips are not common in Italy. However, the sweetness of the parsnips and honey is perfect with the strong-flavoured salmon.

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. If time allows, drop the pistachios into boiling water for 3-4 minutes, drain, then slip off the skins. This gives a much greener, brighter colour to contrast with the salmon. It also gives the nuts more moisture, making them less likely to dry out in the oven. If time is short, though, you can leave them unskinned; the flavour is equally satisfying, even if they are not so pretty on the plate. Boil the parsnips in salted water for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, prepare the crust for the salmon steaks. Chop the nuts by hand or in a food processor until they are the size of peppercorns. Set aside in a mixing bowl. Do the same with the bread and herbs to make herb breadcrumbs, then mix thoroughly with the nuts and salt and pepper. Season the salmon with a little salt and, if using steaks, place them against one another in a roasting tin. Drizzle the honey over the salmon, spreading it out with your finger. Now coat with the breadcrumb mixture, patting it down so that it sticks to the honey. Drizzle over the oil. If using steaks, separate them to allow even cooking. Transfer to the oven for 15-25 minutes, or until cooked through. When the parsnips are cooked, drain them and mash with the butter, milk and salt and pepper, until smooth. Set aside. Serve the salmon on a bed of parsnip mash.

From 'The Italian Cookery Course' by Katie Caldesi (Kyle Cathie, £30).

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