Food Club April 2017
The age-old principle of eating fish on Fridays came from early Christianity and Catholicism. Originally ‘fast’ days, fasting was not actually starving yourself, but disciplining to take only a little food and water. One of the ways of showing the religious beliefs was ‘no meat on Fridays’, which is where fish eventually came in as a substitute.
Fish is still popular to serve, particularly over the Easter period. If you are having a large family gathering, there is nothing better than a whole dressed salmon as a centrepiece, even though this has become somewhat ‘passé’, it still has a place on most buffet tables. Served with delicious baby new potatoes and our dressing (recipe below), it will still be a crowd-pleaser.
How to cook the perfect whole salmon
Rather than do the hard work yourself, get the fishmonger to gut and clean the fish for you, ready for you to cook. Many fishmongers and supermarkets will loan you fish kettles, as long as you purchase the fish from them! Alternatively, you can use a large baking or roasting tin and the trusty kitchen foil which you should always have!
Poaching your salmon could not be easier, once it has been prepared by the fishmonger, who should remove all the gills and large bones inside the fish.
Assuming you are using a fish kettle, follow these easy steps:
- Slice up several lemons into rings. Pick out the herbs of your choice (perhaps dill, parsley or chives, even tarragon, but that can be a little overwhelming) and fill the cavity with both the lemons and the herbs and any seasoning such as salt and pepper.
- Half fill the fish kettle with water and add enough salt to make it similar to a light sea water.
- Lower the fish on to the rack provided, adding more water to cover if necessary. Add two bay leaves, handful of peppercorns and some sliced lemons.
- Place on your hob and bring the pan slowly to the boil. Let it bubble hard for 20 seconds, then turn off the heat and put the lid on. You may need to put the kettle safely over 2 rings depending on your cooker and whether you have a griddle section on it.
- Leave to cool, then lift out of the water to drain.
- When cool enough to handle, remove all skin and the ‘grey-brown’ outer flesh, as this does not look attractive.
- Decorate with slices of overlapping lemon, some tiny rosettes of parsley and pipe on some mayonnaise in between the lemons and parsley. Alternatively, use cucumber rings to garnish. If required, use an aspic glaze over the top.
If you have particularly large fish, it is good to use a roasting tin. You can also cut the fish in half if you prefer, and then just cleverly disguise the join when it comes to decorating.
- Preheat the oven to 140°C/275°F/Gas mark 1.
- Season the fish with salt and pepper inside and out, and stuff the cavity with lemon slices.
- Oil a sheet of good quality foil twice the length of your salmon. Wrap the salmon in it, sealing the edges tightly and making sure there are no tears or gaps.
- Lay the fish on your largest baking sheet and bake for two hours (for a 9lb/4kg fish).
- Leave to cool in the foil parcel.
- Decorate as above by placing the two pieces of cut fish back together and covering the seam!
Our Luscious Lemon Caper Dressing
If you serve this with the salmon, everyone will love it! This dressing will serve 8-10 people.
- 175ml extra virgin olive oil
- Zest of 3 lemons, juice of 2 lemons
- 50g (or more if you like them!) small capers
- 4tsp Dijon mustard
- 4tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- Ground black pepper to taste
- (You can increase on capers, parsley or seasoning to your taste)
As far as possible, this dressing should be made just shortly before serving, otherwise the parsley will discolour (lemons will change the colour of many green foods).
Whisk all the ingredients together and place in a small jug or something like a gravy boat to serve. Guests can help themselves.