Over the summer, I worked in one of the University research labs, for a professor who is looking into changes in the condition of Scottish wild Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) populations and how this may be tied to climate change. I won’t bore you with the details, but basically, we processed a lot of salmon in the lab this summer. 44 salmon if I remember correctly. Most of each fish was used for research, with the exception of the tail section, and we didn’t want it to go to waste. Since the fish were chopped up in an ouside shed rather than in the lab (thus avoiding any potential chemical contamination), the meat was perfectly fine for human consumption, so we shared the tails out amongst the lab members. Consequently, guess who ended up with about 3.5kg of salmon sitting in her freezer by the end of the summer? (And that’s not counting the salmon that had already been eaten!)
So I ended up with a load of salmon – what’s the big deal? Firstly, wild salmon is just so flavourful. Unfortunately, farmed salmon just doesn’t compare. Not even remotely. Secondly, we got the tails for free. Wild Scottish salmon retails at minimum £20 per kg (depending on your fishmonger). As a student, that’s a whole achievement in itself!
Now, 3.5kg is a lot of tasty salmon (an entire freezer drawer actually) – what does one do with all those tasty tails? I can scientifically gut and dissect a fish, I can slice through a fish’s brain and find the otoliths for you, but I’m no fishmonger – I can’t presentably fillet a fish and the tails make rather tiny slices. So no salmon fillets/steaks for us. How about… quiche! The great thing about quiche in this particular case is that the salmon doesn’t have to be perfectly sliced or anything, so it can be steamed and then just flaked off the bones (so much easier than trying to fillet it before steaming). These wild salmon had so much taste in them that the quiche didn’t really need additional flavours so I only added an onion and some garlic, but quiche recipes are always flexible and with less flavourful salmon you could add wilted spinach or cooked broccoli.
I defrosted the last of the salmon for Burns Night (it seemed an apt occasion – and yes, due to deadlines, this is a delayed post). I’d made salmon quiche so many times over the summer and last semester that I really thought my friends would be a bit fed up of it. I was trying to think of something else to do for a starter, perhaps salmon mousse, but they actually requested quiche. So I made “lab salmon” quiche one last time… I was really touched when they told me they’d been looking forward to it all day (thanks guys – I hope it lived up to your expectations!) This time we accompanied it with Pieropan Soave Pieropan 2009 (Italy), but we’ve previously enjoyed it with Cousino Macul Sauvignon Gris 2009 (Chile) and Crazy by Nature Shotberry Chardonnay 2008 (New Zealand).
Serves 6-8 as a starter, 4 as a main course
Recipe from my imagination
This quiche works as a starter, lunch or light dinner, and can be served warm or cold. The salmon has to be cooked beforehand – I marinated it in some olive oil, pepper and herbes de Provence for at least 15 mins before steaming it in my pressure cooker. If you do likewise, reserve the marinade oil to sauté the onions in.
Quiche pastry (click for recipe)
300g of cooked salmon, flaked (skinned and de-boned if necessary)
2 cloves garlic
5 tbsp crème fraîche
5 tsp herbes de Provence (at least!)
2 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
1. Roll out the pastry to about 3-4mm thickness and line a well-buttered 24 or 26cm tarte tin with it. Trim the edges and prick the pastry with a fork. Leave to rest in the fridge for about 30 mins whilst you prepare the quiche filling. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C.
2. Dice the onion and finely chop the garlic cloves. Sauté them in some olive oil (or the reserved oil from the salmon marinade) until softened and golden.
3. Beat the eggs in a large bowl, add the crème fraîche, the herbs and some pepper and mix well. Add the flaked salmon and the (fairly) cooled onions and garlic and mix well. Add a little more crème fraîche if you feel this is necessary.
4. Remove the tarte tin from the fridge, spread the mustard thinly over the base (this is optional, but it helps to bring out the flavours in the quiche), pour the salmon mix over the top and spread it evenly.
5. Cook for 30-40mins, until the pastry is golden and a toothpick comes out clean (if the top is getting a little too brown, cover with tin foil). Serve hot or cold with a simple salad on the side (oak leaf salad and walnut oil vinaigrette both go really well with salmon).
PS – Uhm, ya, I really did put the scientific name for Atlantic salmon up there in that first paragraph. I left it in because it amused me that I didn’t initially notice. What can I say? I’m in the middle of writing a review essay for my dissertation – it’s kind of automatic. You’re lucky I haven’t thrown in any references.