What’s cooking today: Cape salmon with tarragon cream sauce

Tony Jackman’s butterflied Cape salmon (geelbek) with a tarragon cream sauce. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

There’s tarragon growing in a pot in my back garden for the first time in four years. Time to fry those geelbek fillets, with a tarragon cream sauce to posh them up a bit.

Tarragon is a beauty of a herb, and a beauty of a word (derived, as it happens, from the French estragon). One of those English words that sings as you say it. When using tarragon in a sauce, you don’t need to fiddle around with too many other ingredients. It’s the tarragon that you want to sing in that sauce just as it does when tripping off the tongue. I do find that a bit of mustard balances well with tarragon without masking it, and dry white wine in there adds depth of flavour.


2 Cape salmon (geelbek) fillets, skin on

2 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp onion, finely chopped

½ cup dry white wine 

1 cup cream 

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard 

2 Tbsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped

Salt and white pepper to taste


Make the sauce first. Melt butter in a saucepan and gently saute the onion until translucent. Add the white wine and tarragon and reduce by two thirds. Whisk in the mustard and pour in the cream. Bring it to a simmer and cook gently until the sauce thickens and enriches. Season with salt and white pepper to taste and cook for a minute or two more.

Melt the butter in a skillet or heavy frying pan and add the oil. Fry the fillets skin-side down until cooked to the middle, then turn for a couple of minutes more. They should be just slightly under at the centre for fish perfection. Serve with the tarragon sauce napped alongside. Some crisp chips would not go amiss. DM/TGIFood

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Writer of the Year 2021. His book, foodSTUFF, is now available in the DM Shop. Buy it here.

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