This is a good, easy weeknight dinner, but one that is so much more than the sum of its parts. Blood oranges and crunchy fennel are perfect partners for the rich oiliness of smoked fish, and even more so when outlined against a dramatic canvas of black barley (but you can use ordinary pearl barley if you prefer). If you’re making this when blood oranges are out of season, use regular oranges and add an extra squeeze of lemon juice to the dressing.
400g beetroot, trimmed and sliced into 1.5cm wedges
1 tablespoon rapeseed or olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
150g black or pearl barley, soaked in cold water for 1–2 hours
3 blood oranges
1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
1 teaspoon maple syrup or agave nectar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
50g pitted black olives, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 small fennel bulb
juice of ½ lemon
250g hot-smoked fish fillet, such as trout, mackerel, or salmon
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 210°C/190°C fan/gas mark 6–7.
Toss the beetroot wedges in a bowl with the rapeseed or olive oil, sea salt, and a good grinding of black pepper to season. Tip the seasoned wedges onto a baking tray and spread them out in a single layer. Place them in the oven to roast for about 30 minutes, or until they are tender to the point of a knife. Set aside.
While the beetroot is roasting, drain the barley from its soaking water and put it in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water by 5cm or so, place it over high heat and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a lively simmer and cook, covered, for 30–40 minutes, until the grains are tender but still have some chewy bite to them. They should not be chalky and crunchy in the center. Drain the barley well in a colander, then return it to the saucepan to keep warm.
While the beetroot and barley cook, make a dressing. Using a sharp knife, slice the skin and pith off the blood oranges, then, holding the orange over a sieve placed over a bowl, cut out the segments of flesh, dropping them into the sieve. Squeeze the remaining pith and membranes over the sieve to get all the juice.
Pour the blood orange juice into a jug and add the mustard, olive oil, maple syrup or agave, and red wine vinegar, and season generously with salt and some black pepper. Taste and adjust if necessary – remember, the olives and fish will be salty, so err on the side of under-salted.
When the barley and beetroot are ready, put the drained barley into a large bowl and add the blood orange segments, roasted beetroot, olives and parsley. Pour the dressing over and mix well – it is important to do this while the barley and beetroot are still warm, so they soak up the dressing.
Pick any fronds off the fennel and add them to the barley mixture. Slice the fennel bulb as thinly as possible, ideally using a mandoline. Place in a small bowl and toss well with the lemon juice and a sprinkling of salt.
When you’re ready to serve, flake the fish into large chunks and fold it gently into the barley mixture. Divide the salad between two or three plates, then top each plate with a little of the lemony fennel to serve.