With salmon, go wild if you can but keep it simple
Carmel Somers: Three salmon recipes, with apricot to follow
Salmon with sorrel sauce
I grew up in Co Limerick, not far from the Mulcair river. We’d head to the banks of the Mulcair to swim, walk and have picnics while we watched the salmon swim.
When I was a child, having wild salmon on a weekly basis during the summer months was taken for granted. So plentiful, it would often be given as gifts and many of us would have eaten “twice-poached salmon”.
When moving back to Ireland from the UK I was very excited by the prospect of putting wild salmon on the menu. As years passed, stocks dwindled and finally salmon fishing was banned. After many years, the stocks are improving and I was thrilled to have my first wild salmon again this month.
Food should take you somewhere and salmon does that for me. As I filleted my salmon I was transported back to all those summers and the joy of getting the first salmon of the season and being so happy to see it, putting it on the menu as a special and watching from the kitchen the expressions of customers as they ate it. There is nothing better than breaking the crisp skin into the soft flesh which is hopefully just a little pink in the middle.
For me, cooking salmon is like reconnecting with old friends, like going home, pure comfort while invoking memories of freshness and simplicity.
Very often as a chef, I want to push myself and do something new but when it comes to salmon I find myself falling back on the classics and keeping it as simple as possible.
Buy the best salmon that is available to you and you will be duly rewarded. When buying or catching a whole salmon, make a stock with the bones, scale the skin and cook it until crisp and remember there could be enough meat in the head for a couple of fish cakes for lunch.
Salmon in pastry with ginger and currants
The first time I made this classic dish I was rather dubious – but it became a firm favourite and ended up on my menu for years. The original recipe came from the Hole in the Wall in Bath, when it was run by the infamous George Perry Smith.
This is the ideal dish for a dinner party as all the preparation can be done in advance and it works well just out of the oven or at room temperature. If you do manage to get some wild salmon, ask the fishmonger to scale it and give you the skin. This will make a lovely salad, cut into strips, fried until crisp, tossed with some leaves and served with capers and a lemon dressing.
Preserved stem ginger is easy to find in shops now, in the baking section. Any leftover ginger can be used to make a ginger cake later in the year. If you are daunted by pastry making, a shop bought puff pastry will work here.
1.2kg salmon, skinned and boned weight
Salt and pepper
100g soft butter
4 pieces preserved ginger
salt and pepper
1 egg beaten for egg wash
150g cold butter
1 large egg beaten
2 shallots, chopped
Juice and zest of ½ lemon
1 tsp flour
2 tsp mustard
2 egg yolks
1. Make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, add the egg and bring the dough together gently (you might need to add a drop of water depending on the size of your egg) and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
2. Lay the salmon fillets on a tray and season well with salt and pepper.
3. Heat the oven to 220 degrees.
4. Rinse the ginger of its syrup and chop finely. Mix well with the currants and butter. Spread over each slice of seasoned fish and sandwich the two fillets together, ending up with butter as the top layer.
5. Roll out pastry and make a neat parcel of the salmon. Cut away any excess pastry and brush it all over with the egg wash.
6. Slash the pastry a couple of times to allow the steam to escape. Lay on a baking tray lined with parchment.
7. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
8. In the meantime, make the sauce by putting all the ingredients in the blender and whiz until smooth. Place a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, add the sauce and heat through just before serving.
9. Serve the salmon whole at the table and cut open in front of your guests, serve the sauce on the side.
Salmon marinated with lime and ginger
If you can find some wild salmon for this recipe you will be well rewarded when it comes to taste. If the idea of slicing the salmon thinly is too daunting, ask your fish monger to do it for you.
150ml olive oil
Some grated ginger
Juice and zest of 2 limes
1 tsp sea salt
1. Chill the salmon for 10 minutes in the freezer before slicing it. Take a fish filleting knife or a thin bladed knife and slice the salmon in long, thin slices. Lay the slices on a plate without overlapping.
2. Whiz all the dressing ingredients in a liquidiser or shake very well together in a screw top jar. 3. Just before serving, pour the dressing over the fish, spreading it with the back of a spoon.
4. Scatter with the chopped chives. Serve.
Salmon with sorrel sauce
Recently, I discovered that lots of growers at farmers’ markets have sorrel so it’s always worth asking, otherwise substitute spinach and increase the lemon juice. Sorrel has a sharp lemon taste which works perfectly with any fish but a word of warning: when it’s heated it looses its greenness so it’s best to hide it under the fish.
2 shallots, finely chopped
300ml fish stock
200ml white wine
1 lemon, juiced
Bunch sorrel leaves, about 30g
6 x 200g salmon fillets, scaled
Splash of olive oil
1. Make the sauce by putting the shallots, stock and wine in a pan and bring to the boil, allow to simmer until reduced by half.
2. Add the cream, bring back to a simmer, season with salt and add lemon juice to taste.
3. Shred the sorrel leaves and add to the sauce, remove from the heat and allow to stand until you are ready to serve.
4. Just before you are ready to eat, heat a pan on a high heat, add the butter and a good splash of oil. Place the fish fillets, skin side down and cook for about 3 minutes or until the skin is crisp.
5. Remove the pan from the heat, turn the fish over and allow it to finish cooking in the heat of the pan for a minute before removing it to a warm plate. Depending on the size of your pan, you might have to cook in two batches.
6. Divide the sorrel sauce between six plates and place the salmon fillets on top.
Poached apricots with cardamom
One of my golden rules is to serve a chocolate dessert after fish but when I have salmon in the summer and apricots are in season, they are a must. If you fail to find fresh apricots, this recipe works with the dried variety. Soak them overnight and use the soaking water that remains to make the syrup.
Serve with cream or yoghurt and some toasted nuts such as pine nuts or almonds.
18 apricots, halved and stoned
3 to 4 cardamom pods, crushed
A strip of lemon peel
1. Put the water in a medium saucepan along with the sugar and bring to the boil.
2. Add the lemon peel and crushed cardamom pods and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
3. Add the apricots and cook gently until just soft. Serve with cream or yoghurt and some toasted nuts such as pine nuts or almonds