Feeding fishermen: how to cook an enormous fresh salmon

The catch of the week in the misty, open hills of Aberdeenshire was a 15lb salmon from the Deveron River. Having gutted it and saved the roe for later, the next task was how to cook it. It was too large to fit in any oven. We cheated and sacrilegiously cut it in half. However at the bottom of the page are some of the outlandish ideas we came up with to cook it whole.

Here follows a simple but sumptuous dinner party for eight hungry and self-contented fishermen and women:

Salmon roe and crème fraiche blinis
Sweet potato and feta tartlets with green salad
Slow baked 6lb salmon with buttery new potatoes, mange tout, garlic spinach and herb-heavy mayonnaise
Poached pears with caramelised macadamia nuts and Barbados cream

(Cook the pudding the day before)

Salmon roe and crème fraiche blinis

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Dealing with salmon roe can be fiddly but luckily you only need a small amount to top these blinis.

Having removed the roe sack from the salmon rinse it in cold water. Mix a bowl of cold water with 3 tablespoons of salt to make a brine, add the roe to this and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Next put the roe sack in a bowl of warm water, which will help loosen the roe’s skein, and use your fingers to remove the membrane from the eggs. Once you think you have enough eggs strain them and add to the brine for a further 10 minutes, they should turn from cloudy to clear. They are now ready to eat.

To make easy and quick blinis use a drop scone recipe:

125g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 egg, separated
12ml milk
2 tbsp melted butter

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl, make a well in the centre and add the egg yolk and a little of the milk. Gradually beat in and add more milk until you have the consistency of thick cream. Add the melted butter.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg white until foamy but not stiff, fold this into the batter.

In a lightly greased heavy based pan over a medium heat drop teaspoons of batter. When they start to bubble turn them over and cook for a minute longer.

Top these blinis with a dollop of crème fraiche, a little of the salmon roe and a sprinkle of dill.

Sweet potato and feta tartlets with green salad

4 medium sweet potatoes
1 pack of feta, crumbled
1 red chilli, chopped finely
A few sprigs of thyme
1 egg, beaten
100ml sour cream
375g puff pastry
3 spring onions, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil

Bake the sweet potatoes at 200 degrees for 35 minutes.
Once the potatoes are out of the oven allow them to cool while rolling out and cutting the pastry into rectangles. Brush lightly with the beaten egg and smear with sour cream.
Peel off the potato skins and cut into thin round slices. Don’t allow them to sit around or they will turn brown.
Arrange the sweet potato slices overlapping in a line on the pastries and sprinkle with the feta, chilli and thyme.
Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
Meanwhile mix together the olive oil, raw crushed garlic and sliced spring onions.
When the pastry is golden and puffy remove from the oven and sprinkle with the olive oil mixture. Serve with a balsamic drizzled green salad.

Slow baked 6lb Salmon with buttery new potatoes, mange tout, garlic spinach and a herb-heavy mayonnaise

For the salmon:
½ onion, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2 bay leafs
2 tbsp capers
1 lemon
200g butter, cubed
150ml dry white wine
salt and pepper

Set the oven to 130 degrees.
Place the salmon on a large piece of tin foil within a baking dish, season the insides of the fish and sprinkle with the onion, bay leafs, capers, lemon slices, and cubed butter. Season the outside and splash the white wine over it all.
Wrap up the foil loosely around the salmon leaving airspace but making sure it’s airtight by tightly scrunching the edges.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 3 hours.

For the mayonnaise:
2 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
1tsp dry mustard
400ml olive oil
1tbsp white wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 large garlic clove, crushed
Handful each of parsley, chives and dill

Now do the mayonnaise. Beat 2 egg yolks with a pinch of salt and the mustard powder with an electric whisk. Really slowly drip in the oil, as more is incorporated and it thickens you can speed up. Once half the oil is poured in add in the vinegar. Beat in the rest of the oil gradually until you think you have enough quantity.
Now add in the lemon juice, crushed garlic, seasoning and herbs to taste.

Boil the new potatoes (1.5kg) for 20 minutes until cooked, then dollop with butter, they can be done a while in advance and left to sit on the hot plate.

Fifteen minutes before serving cook the vegetables.
Melt butter and add 2 tbsp of water to a deep frying pan, add the spinach and stir. Once wilted mix in some crushed garlic and season.
Steam mange tout for 5 minutes or until they have inflated and still have some crunch.

Once out of the oven the salmon will still carry on cooking within its tin foil wrap so timing is essential. If your dinner is running late take the salmon out the oven early and allow it to carry on cooking even more slowly.

Poached pears with caramelised macadamia nuts and Barbados cream

8 large pears
300ml red wine
1 star anise
3 cardamom pods
4 juniper berries
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leafs
2 cloves
2 tbsp Demerara sugar

This is a very easy pudding something ideally done the day before to allow the spices to infuse.
Take a large heavy based pot and pour in the wine and add all the spices and vanilla bean paste, bring to a boil and then take off the heat.
Peel the pears and gently put them in the pot, top up with water if the liquid doesn’t quite cover them.
Simmer these gently for an hour. Take out the pears and reduce the poaching liquid by two thirds with a fast boil. Using a sieve strain the liquid over the pears to remove the spices.
These can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days.

The macadamia nuts and Barbados cream are also best done in advance:

250ml Greek yoghurt
150ml double cream
75g soft brown sugar

Mix the cream and yoghurt together in a bowl. Coat with a thick layer of sugar and leave it for at least 12 hours in the fridge, covered with cling film. The sugar appears to melt into the creamy mixture and when mixed in gives a caramelised flavour.

300g macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
100g soft brown sugar

Spread the sugar evenly over the bottom of a heavy based saucepan on a medium heat and add the nuts. Watch over it closely. The sugar will become a liquid and then turn a nice caramelised brown, stir the nuts to coat them. Immediately take off the heat and pour onto a baking sheet. Once cool break up the nougat into chunks.

Finally warm up the pears, if necessary. Cut them in half lengthways and pour over the poaching syrup with a dollop of Barbados cream on the side scattered with the caramelised nuts.

5 outlandish ways to cook that whopping great salmon

1)   In an empty and clean dishwasher place a foil wrapped salmon (follow the above oven method for seasonings). Set the dishwasher on a full cycle. This actually works, the other ones might not!
2)   Double wrap the salmon in foil and place it in a steaming hot bath. Allow it to relax for 4 hours, hot water top ups may be needed. Bubble bath is not advised.
3)   A big fireplace is required. Lay the salmon within the embers of a fire and leave to smoke for 3 hours.
4)   Hug a salmon. Wrap the salmon in newspaper and hug it gently for 12 hours. Salmon are cold-blooded animals and will adapt to their surrounding temperature, even after death. After 12 hours of human heat and contact they will be delicately cooked. Warning: human smells may permeate the salmon. Tree huggers are not suitable salmon huggers.
5)   No need to cook it – fresh from the river it is perfect for sashimi.

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