The colours and flavours make for a wonderfully festive dish that will happily serve six, and the refreshing, mild flavours of the sockeye salmon fillet are beautifully complemented by a delicate chestnut crust.
It's delightfully herby and lemony with a kick of mustard, while the chestnuts lend a hint of sweetness and a pleasingly crumbly structure to the crust.
I love a traditional Christmas dinner, but December can mean a two-week splurge on rich food.
That's why I really like the idea of breaking away from the norm on the big day with something healthy, light but still packed with flavour and able to command centre stage on any table. And that's why I've really enjoyed putting together a festive spread with this beautiful sockeye salmon fillet.
- 80g (2.75 oz) chestnuts
- 4 tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 10g (0.35 oz) fresh parsley (plus more to garnish)
- 1 tsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
- Juice of half a lemon
- 750g (1.65 lb) sockeye salmon fillet, defrosted
- 2 lemons, quarters
- pinch salt
For the chestnuts
Preheat oven to 220C/430F (200C/390F fan) degrees. Take a sharp knife and cut an 'X' into the side of each chestnut (this will stop them exploding in the oven!).
Put in a baking tray and roast for around 15-20 minutes, or until the shells have pulled back from the cuts you made and the inside has softened.
While the chestnuts are cooking, pop the breadcrumbs, peppercorns and mustard seeds into a food processor.
Pulse for briefly until well combined but still coarse - don't worry. The crust will break down further as we add more ingredients.
Add the parsley and pulse again.
Take the chestnuts out of the oven, wrap in clean kitchen towel and squeeze them to help break the shell.
Leave to sit for 5 minutes before peeling to remove the shell and any pith.
Add the peeled chestnuts to the blender and pulse until the chestnuts are coarsely chopped.
Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon and pulse through until you have a coarse paste. Set aside.
To prepare the salmon
Before you begin cooking with your salmon, make sure that it is fully deboned. Run your finger along the edge of the salmon and use needle-nose pliers or strong tweezers to carefully pull each out at the same angle it is pointing.
Place the salmon skin side down on a well oiled and salted baking sheet (this will help to stop it from sticking). Oil and salt the flesh side of the salmon.
Crumble the crust mixture on top of salmon to cover evenly.
Arrange the lemon wedges around the tin.
Roast for around 20 minutes or until the salmon is cooked all the way through. You can check if your salmon is done by poking a knife into it - the salmon should flake easily. If using a meat thermometer, you can also check that the thickest part of the fish reaches 50C/125F.
Pointers, tricks and troubleshooting tips for the perfect chestnut and pepper crusted salmon fillet
Is chestnut and pepper crusted salmon fillet easy to make?
Yes, this recipe is a wonderfully simple way to bring texture and flavour when cooking this beautifully bright sockeye salmon fillet.
The crust is easy to bring together and can be made ahead, then all you need to do is add it to the salmon and roast for about 20 minutes, read on for more tips to recreate this dish perfectly.
Will I need any special equipment for this recipe?
To make your life easier you’ll need a food processor to make the crust. If you don't have one, use a pestle and mortar to crush the peppercorns and mustard seeds, and finely chop the chestnuts and parsley before mixing with the breadcrumbs, olive oil, and lemon juice to create the crust. You will also need a baking tray to cook the chestnuts and roast the salmon on.
Where can I buy sockeye salmon fillet?
Sockeye salmon sometimes called red salmon is wild salmon rather than farmed, and has a lower fat content than its farmed counterpart pink salmon. The flesh has a striking deep red colour and a delicious full flavour, perfect for a celebration dinner.
You should be able to get sockeye salmon from your local fishmongers or online. If you can’t find it you can of course use pink salmon instead.
If you’re using this dish as a centerpiece it's lovely to get a large whole salmon fillet and serve at the table, or you can use individual fillet steaks instead. When using individual fillets keep in mind they will cook quicker than the big salmon fillet I'm using, so check on them after 8-10 minutes.
How can I tell if salmon has gone off?
The first thing to check would be the Use By Date, when buying fresh fish from the fishmonger ask them for a Use By Date, this will be a good indication of whether or not the salmon is still safe to eat. Make sure it’s been kept appropriately either in the fridge or freezer.
Fresh sockeye salmon will have a vibrant orange-red colour to the flesh, which should feel firm and not be falling apart. If there is discolouration or the fish looks dull this is a sure sign it's past its best.
Another obvious indicator when fish has gone off is a strong ammonia smell, the salmon will smell a little fishy even when it's fresh, but it shouldn’t be strong and unpleasant.
Is this recipe suitable for vegetarians or vegans?
As the main element of this dish is salmon, this would not be suitable for a vegetarian or vegan.
That said you could use the chestnut pepper crust to create a vegetarian or vegan option. Add 1-2 teaspoons of nutritional yeast to the crust mix for added umami flavour and pile onto portobello mushrooms, bake on an oiled tray for 15-20 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and cooked.
Check the breadcrumbs you are using are suitable for vegans if nesessary.
Is this recipe gluten-free?
For this recipe, I’m using wheat-based breadcrumbs so it is not gluten-free.
If you want to try and make this recipe gluten-free simply use gluten-free breadcrumbs that you’ve either made yourself or purchased.
When cooking for someone who needs to avoid gluten in their diet make sure to check all ingredients, and make sure any side dishes you plan to serve are suitable too.
Is this recipe keto-friendly?
Depending on what you choose to serve your chestnut crusted salmon with it can become a keto-friendly dish. You may wish to leave out the breadcrumbs to help reduce the amount of carbohydrates in this recipe.
Is this recipe healthy?
This recipe is about 260 calories per serving, so depending on what you serve it with you’re well on the way to a healthy dinner. I find this recipe is a great alternative to a lot of the more heavy and rich dishes often served over the festive season.
Serve with dark leafy greens or rainbow chard for some more festive impact and colour.
Is this recipe safe to eat while pregnant?
Salmon is considered to be an oily fish and the NHS recommends having no more than 2 portions of oily fish a week, if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Other than that there is nothing in this recipe that would usually pose a risk to a pregnant woman, so long as the ingredients are in good condition and the salmon is prepared and cooked hygienically.
A Mummy Too does not offer medical advice, if you have any worries or questions please speak to a health professional.
Is it suitable for babies and toddlers?
Yes this chestnut crusted salmon is ok to feed to weaned babies over 6 months old and toddlers.
If this is being served to young children it would be a good idea to leave out the salting, or perhaps prepare the children a separate piece of salmon with no salt as they don’t need it in their diet, excess salt is not good for their kidneys.
Similar to advice during pregnancy, the NHS recommends that boys have no more than 4 portions of oily fish like salmon, and girls no more than 2 portions a week.
What goes well with this recipe?
Your favourite green veg is always a winner with salmon, steamed green beans or broccoli, sauteed kale, or keep it festive with sprouts and roast potatoes. Rice or orzo pasta go really well with salmon too.
Can I make this recipe without fresh parsley?
Parsley brings lots of bright herbiness to this dish, and unfortunately, you can’t really use dried parsley instead.
If you don’t have any fresh parsley you could try experimenting with another leafy green herb like basil or just leave it out of the dish. You’ll still be able to create a lovely topping with the breadcrumbs and chestnuts.
I haven’t got salmon, can I use other fish?
If you can’t get hold of sockeye salmon you can, of course, use a different fish, salmon does have a distinct taste, and sockeye salmon is a particularly striking contrast against the vibrant chestnut and parsley crust.
The main things to consider are the size of the piece of fish, you’ll need a piece a similar size to my salmon about 750g if you’re making this for six. And get a fillet with the skin still on. You can ask your fishmonger for their recommendations for an alternative, I’d suggest something like trout or bass.
I haven’t got chestnuts, can I use other nuts?
Chestnuts are quite unique in the nut world and they bring a delightful subtle sweetness to this recipe.
You can experiment with different nuts if you like, I’d suggest something like walnut or pecan might work, I haven’t tried this recipe using different nuts so let me know how you get on.
If you haven’t cooked with chestnuts before I’d urge you to give it a go, they are so delicious and work beautifully in this recipe.
Can I add extra spices to my chestnut and pepper crusted salmon fillet?
This is quite a gentle recipe in terms of spice with peppery heat coming from the mustard and fresh black pepper.
For me, this is enough as I wouldn’t like to overpower the beautiful piece of salmon we’re using.
If you like a little more kick you could try playing around with the spices, adding a little more mustard seeds, or some chilly flakes that people can add themselves at the table if they wish.
Capers are also a classic companion to fish dishes, you could sprinkle a few over the top after the salmon has been baked for those salty bursts of sourness to jazz things up.
How should I store chestnut and pepper crusted salmon fillet?
Once cooled, any leftovers need to be kept in the fridge, pop the salmon into a suitable container or cover with a beeswax wrap on a plate.
How long does chestnut and pepper crusted salmon fillet keep?
When stored in the fridge this cooked salmon fillet will keep for up to 3 days. Make sure to get your leftovers into the fridge within 2 hours of cooking to reduce the risk of bacterial spread.
Can I leave chestnut and pepper crusted salmon fillet out on the counter?
No, other than for serving this crusted salmon will need to be kept in the fridge. If the salmon is left out for more than two hours there is a much greater risk of foodborne illnesses.
Can I make chestnut and pepper crusted salmon fillet ahead?
For me, fish is always best served immediately after cooking. If you want to get ahead you can make the crust up to a day ahead and keep it in the fridge in a sealed container until your ready to bake the salmon.
Can I keep chestnut and pepper crusted salmon fillet in the refrigerator?
Yes, it's important to keep the salmon in the fridge before you cook it, and get any leftovers into the fridge within 2 hours of cooking.
Can I freeze chestnut and pepper crusted salmon fillet?
Yes, you can freeze any leftovers if you like. Once the salmon has cooled cut any leftovers into portions and wrap each one tightly in a layer of clingfilm, and then a layer of tin foil.
If you have a few pieces you could pop them into a container to keep them together. Label your container with the date and what's inside.
This will keep in the freezer for up to a month, defrost in the fridge for 6 hours before reheating.
What is the best way to reheat chestnut and pepper crusted salmon fillet?
I find the best way to reheat this crusted salmon fillet is in the oven. You could blast it in the microwave on full for 2-4 minutes but I prefer to use the oven.
Preheat your oven to 160C/320F (140C/280F Fan) wrap the salmon into a tin foil parcel on a baking sheet and heat in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the salmon is hot right through.
Can I make chestnut and pepper crusted salmon fillet in a different quantity?
If you want to make more of less of this chestnut crusted salmon you can. On the recipe card below you’ll see the servings is currently set to 6, which uses a piece of salmon that weighs about 750g.
To make more or less, just click on the number of servings and a handy slider will appear that you can move up or down to the number of servings you want to make. This will automatically adjust the ingredients for you so you're ready to get cooking.
Can I make chestnut and pepper crusted salmon fillet in individual portions?
Personally, I prefer to cook this as a whole large fillet and use it as a centerpiece to serve at the table.
That said if you’re only making a small amount or find it easier to serve individual fillets then go right ahead.
Divide your crust topping over your fillets and surround with lemon wedges. Individual fillets will cook much quicker than the large piece I roasted so check them after about 8-10 minutes, they will probably be done within 12 minutes.
How can I make sure the salmon is perfectly cooked?
It’s important to prepare the tray you’re going to cook the salmon in. Make sure to oil it well and salt the tray, this helps stop the skin from sticking to the tray.
Preheat the oven whilst you’re preparing the tray and salmon. Remove any stray bones you can find before adding the chestnut crust. Don’t forget the lemons, they roast beautifully around the fish and release that lively zest into the salmon as it roasts.
Keep an eye on your salmon through the oven door. Depending on the thickness of your fillet it will take up to 20 minutes to cook, but don’t be tempted to keep opening the door. A probe thermometer can be a great help to check the thickest part has reached at least 50C/125F then you’ll know it's ready. It should flake easily and be pink and opaque.
Why did my chestnut and pepper crusted salmon turn out dry and burnt?
If the oven is too hot it will likely burn, fish is quite delicate and shouldn't be left in the oven too long. Remember to turn the oven down after the chestnuts have roasted so the salmon can cook in slightly less intense heat. It's a great idea to set a timer so you know when to check the salmon too.
Why did my chestnut and pepper crusted salmon turn out undercooked?
This could be because the oven wasn’t hot enough, or the salmon was taken out too quickly.
It takes about 20 minutes to roast a piece of salmon this size and you can check if it's cook by flaking the middle and having a look inside, it should look opaque and pink.
If you have a probe thermometer you can check its reached at least 50C/125F at the thickest part of the fish. If not, return the oven for a further 5 minutes or so until it is.
How can I add/change the flavours in this dish?
You can play around with the chestnut crust or use a different type of fish to change the flavours of this dish. How about using basil and pine nuts instead of chestnuts and parsley.
Print this chestnut and pepper crusted salmon fillet recipe
If you’d like to print this chestnut and pepper crusted salmon fillet recipe to try at home, just hit the grey PRINT button on the recipe card below.
Chestnut and pepper crusted salmon fillet
- 80 g (2.82 oz) chestnuts
- 4 tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 10 g (0.35 oz) fresh parsley plus more to garnish
- 1 tsp olive oil plus extra for greasing
- 1/2 (0.5 ) lemon juice
- 750 g (1.65 lb) sockeye salmon fillet defrosted
- 2 lemons quartered
- 1 pinch salt
For the chestnuts
- Preheat oven to 220C/430F (200C/390F fan) degrees. Take a sharp knife and cut an 'X' into the side of each chestnut (this will stop them exploding in the oven!).
- Put in a baking tray and roast for around 15-20 minutes, or until the shells have pulled back from the cuts you made and the inside has softened.
To make the crust
- While the chestnuts are cooking, pop the breadcrumbs, peppercorns and mustard seeds into a food processor. Pulse for briefly until well combined but still coarse - don't worry the crust will break down further as we add more ingredients.
- Add the parsley and pulse again.
- Take the chestnuts out of the oven, wrap in clean kitchen towel and squeeze them to help break the shell. Leave to sit for 5 minutes before peeling to remove the shell and any pith.
- Turn the oven down to 200C/390F (180C/350F fan) degrees.
- Add the peeled chestnuts to the blender and pulse until the chestnuts are coarsely chopped.
- Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon and pulse through until you have a coarse paste. Set aside to prepare the salmon
To prepare the salmon
- Before you begin cooking with your salmon, make sure that it is fully deboned. Run your finger along the edge of the salmon and use needle-nose pliers or strong tweezers to carefully pull each out at the same angle it is pointing.
- Place the salmon skin side down on a well oiled and salted baking sheet (this will help to stop it from sticking). Oil and salt the flesh side of the salmon.
- Crumble the crust mixture on top of salmon to cover evenly.
- Arrange the lemon wedges around the tin.
- Roast for around 20 minutes or until the salmon is cooked all the way through.
Have you tried salmon fillet before? What did you serve alongside it?
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