Tarragon is a green leafy perennial and most commonly associated with béarnaise sauce, tartar sauce or salad vinegars. With slender leaves, tarragon resembles rosemary, but its tender leaves are a sweet aniseed flavour.

Easily grown on an outdoor windowsill or as fresh sprigs wrapped in damp paper towels and stored in the refrigerator, fresh tarragon is generally available from late spring / early summer until early autumn. Served with pork, chicken, pasta, seafood or fish, as well as a variety of vegetables, this is a versatile herbaceous aromatic easily evokes romantic thoughts of sunny French cuisine.

Blend together a couple of teaspoons of finely chopped tarragon with 50g of good quality butter, a squeeze of lemon juice and a little fresh black pepper. Wrap in kitchen parchment, shaping into a small log and chill. Slice with a sharp knife then be serve on warm pasta, florets of cauliflower or simply to moisten grilled fish. Tarragon butter freezes well and transports a warm summer bounty into cooler climes.

Aniseed cuts through the richness of salmon, often turning to Pernod or Pastis which are excellent liquors to use when preparing gravalax. Tasty salmon is so readily available and certainly in our home, used as a quick convenience food. Teamed with tarragon and polenta, here is a superb, quick midweek treat. As the salmon bakes, its healthy oils, bursting with omega 3, soak into the polenta to form a crisp, crunchy shell.

To serve, I simply blanch a handful of haricot vert for 2 or 3 minutes then immediately cool them under cold water, preserving their vibrant greenness. Drain and pat dry with kitchen towels then toss in a little olive oil and oven roast alongside the salmon.

Salmon, Polenta and Tarragon with Roast Haricot Vert

(serves 2)

  • 2 handfuls of haricot vert, topped and tailed
  • little olive oil
  • 2 fillets of salmon, skinned
  • 1tbs polenta (cornmeal)
  • sprig of tarragon, finely chopped

1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil then blanch the haricot vert for 3 minutes – simply add to the boiling water. Remove and immediately plunge into very cold water until cold. Pat dry on kitchen towels and toss in olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 200C

2. Place the salmon fillets on a baking tray lined with kitchen parchment.

3. Shake together the polenta and tarragon then sprinkle over the salmon. Scatter the haricot vert around the salmon and bake for 18 minutes or until the salmon is cooked and the polenta crisp.

Serve immediately on warm plates though the beauty of this meal is that it may be prepared the evening before, loosely covered and stored in the fridge, ready to be popped into the oven.