Domini Kemp: Smart salmon
Not only is salmon packed with some serious nutrients, it’s robust when it comes to how you cook it or what you cook it with
Poached Thai salmon with mango and avocado salsa. Photograph: Alan Betson /The Irish Times
Salmon is one of the more versatile fish, cooking-wise: oily enough to take some serious heat or gentle poaching, and not too delicate to object to fiery flavours. But don’t be fooled by this apparent one-size-fits-all personality, because behind that everyday, common-or-garden appearance lurks some serious nutrients – and not just omega 3 oils. Salmon is full of peptides, which recent studies show may provide support for joint cartilage, enhance the effectiveness of insulin and control of inflammation of the intestinal tract.
But back to flavours or cooking styles. That rich, oily flesh is pretty robust and will take almost anything you throw at it, as long as it’s not overcooked.
You can go all Asian with blackened spices or, like this recipe, the holy triumvirate of ginger, lime and chili; or stick to the classics – poached salmon with, say, a light beurre blanc or a buttery hollandaise with fresh herbs, maybe tarragon or dill, and some new potatoes. And when it’s tail-smackingly fresh, it’s perfect for sashimi or carpaccio.
It is salmon’s combination of versatility and nutritional goodness that makes it the subject of so many of my culinary experiments with fish. And since I moved the whole household to a more low-carb diet, most of these naturally do away with things like spuds or rice.
This Thai-inspired recipe is a bit like a ramen (Japanese noodle soup) but without the noodles, though if I really fancy some I throw in some soba (buckwheat) noodles.
The salmon is poached in a light, bright broth made fragrant by ginger, garlic, onion, chili and lime and one of my favourite seasonings: fish sauce which really ramps up the umami hit.
The last-minute addition of abundant fresh herbs lends it a prettiness which along with the smell, makes you want to down it in one gulp.
Needless to say, if cooking for under-age diners, then leave out things like the chilli and go easy on the ginger which can be quite spicy.
Herbs can be kept for over forties, but this dish went down surprisingly well in the house. The avocado and mango salsa can all be dumbed down, (for example, leave out the onion) so play around with this dish and you’ll find most residents will accept it with open arms.
To go with it is an equally pretty salsa made with either papaya or mango, mixed with avocado, lime juice and some finely diced – and I mean finely – red onion. Don’t even attempt this if the main ingredients aren’t fully ripe – it will be like eating soap.
In fact, probably the best way to approach this recipe is to buy your avocado and mango at the same time, and when they are just ripe, buy your salmon and get started.