Claire Macdonald’s Salmon With Watercress And Shallot Sauce

Claire Macdonald

A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of meeting Lady Claire Macdonald. Not only meeting her, but getting her permission to reproduce recipes from her huge range of cookery books. We own about a dozen. I commend each and every one of them to you. Needless to say, you'll never get a recipe in Tom Cooks!, even someone else's, without my spin on it, and today's is no exception.

Unlike most sauced meat dishes, you can't add a lot of flavour in the cooking from the main ingredient, as it requires such a short time. The first thing which struck me was how Claire recommended we should cook the salmon. She counsels the way that she was taught by John Tovey. Tovey was one of Britain's early celebrity chef. Sadly I never got to eat at Miller Howe, his hotel on Lake Windermere. I'm told that the quality of the food was matched only by his sense of theatre.

Preheat the oven to 220˚C/Mark 7. Lay the fish on a buttered baking tray. Place on each piece about 25g of butter and season with sea salt and black pepper. Put into the oven for about five minutes.

While I'm sure this would be lovely, I can't help feeling that with a cream sauce it might be a bit rich for today's tastes. I would probably poach the salmon, or pan fry it to get a nice crispy skin - loved by most, hated by L.  Anyway, with only one further comment, here is Claire's recipe.

Salmon Fillets with Watercress and Shallot Sauce (serves 4)

4 x 175g fillets of salmon, cooked as you wish (see above).

For the sauce

4 small shallots, peeled and very finely chopped; ½ stick of celery, peeled and very finely chopped; 50g butter; 300ml chicken stock; 75g watercress; 150ml single cream; (I would use double. A sauce with single cream will split if you allow it to boil. Double is more forgiving.) ½ tsp sugar; s & p.


Sauté the shallots and celery in the butter until soft. This should take about 3 - 4 minutes. Pour in the stock and bubble gently until the liquid has reduced by about half. Put the sauce in a blender and blitz, gradually adding the watercress and the cream. Add the sugar, then adjust the seasoning. Return to the pan and reheat gently. If using single cream do not allow to boil. Spoon some around the cooked fillet of salmon.

Would be good with some new potatoes and spring greens.

This recipe comes from Simply Seasonal. Claire's books are available on Amazon and from good booksellers. Thanks once again for permission to reproduce the recipe.

Tom Cooks! will return in two weeks



  1. Paul Robertson on 13th May 2022 at 6:01 pm

    I am sure that this is lovely. However we have taken to buy our salmon fillets lightly smoked. This has made quite a difference and while usually a little more expensive it is a worthwhile choice.

    • Tom Johnston on 13th May 2022 at 7:44 pm

      Funnily enough you are the second person today who has talked about buying fillets lightly smoked. You can get OK farmed salmon, but you have to be careful.

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