It was salmon that first brought me to Orkney. I had a consultancy to Waitrose supermarkets and was asked to come north to talk all things salmon and to find out if there was a story behind Orkney aquaculture that would interest Waitrose customers. There was!
Salmon remains one of my favourite ingredients and these are some of my favourite ways of cooking it to date: I am certain that there will be many more ideas in the years to come.
Salmon with strawberry sauce is one of my ‘signature dishes’, in as much as it has been a real success for me over many years and right back to my time at BBC Pebble MIll in the early 90’s. It’s a taste of summer for a buffet or just an easy supper dish. The sauce is made by heating some chopped berries, about 150g for 2 people, in 2-3 tablespoons of white or sparkling wine until they lose their gloss. Blitz to a sauce adding tarragon or chervil (or some flat leaf parsley, but it won’t have the same aniseed flavour), salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. You will also need a splash of vinegar: Orkney Craft Vinegar’s Honey and Meadowsweet is perfect but white wine vinegar will also work. The colour is as delicious as the taste!
Salmon curries are brilliant and the fish holds it’s shape pretty well if cut into large pieces and poached gently in the sauce, turning it over just once. I rub the salmon with salt, turmeric and cayenne and then leave it for an hour or two to ‘cure’. Poached in a spiced tomato sauce it is fantastic. Top the salmon and sauce with fried onions in a casserole dish and a generous layer of cooked spiced Basmati rice to bake for an easy curry when entertaining, an easy take on a traditional biryani, a dish of celebration.
Try a Salmon Pie using a packet of ready-rolled puff pastry and a simple filling of cooked salmon and vegetables, with some cherry tomatoes and herbs bound in soured cream or thick creme fraiche. Asparagus, Tenderstem broccoli and broad beans all work really well with the salmon and adding some chervil or tarragon makes the pie extra special.
Salmon is rich and oily which makes it ideal with strong spices. ‘Blackening’ salmon with Cajun spices before pan-frying, flaking and adding to your favourite ingredients for tortillas makes an easy, informal meal. Cajun spiced salmon tortillas are perfect summer wraps and the spice mix, which has ground allspice in it, is available in most good food shops.
Salmon is also a perfect ingredient for salads, working as well with leaves or grains. Either fresh cooked salmon or smoked salmon offcuts are great and don’t feel you have to add 101 ingredients to make an interesting salad bowl: sometimes crisp lettuce, chives, croutons and salmon with a herby dressing is all you need.