This baked salmon with fregola salad is a great dinner party dish as it’s both easy and impressive. The fregola salad was taught to me by chef Giovanni Pilu, from Pilu at Freshwater, who usually serves it with lamb (see video below). Fregola is a reminder of the Arabic influence in Sardinia. Slightly larger than North African couscous, it may have been introduced to Sardinia by the Ligurian fishermen who moved from Tabarka to Isola San Pietro in the early 1700s. The name fregola comes from the word fricare, Latin meaning ‘to rub’ (related to our word ‘friction’), as it’s made in a similar way to couscous by rubbing hard durum wheat with a little water in the bottom of a broad, flat-bottomed bowl. Here the similarity with couscous ends, as fregola is then slowly oven-dried, giving it a lovely nutty aroma and flavour and an uneven colour as some pieces toast more than others. When cooking fregola always ‘rain’ it into the cooking water (‘a pioggia’ in Italian), the same way you should with polenta so that it doesn’t clump together.
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