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What to do if you have 3.5kg of salmon tails residing in your freezer

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).

Salmon quiche

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.

Ingredients

Quiche pastry (click for recipe)
300g of cooked salmon, flaked (skinned and de-boned if necessary)
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 eggs
5 tbsp crème fraîche
5 tsp herbes de Provence (at least!)
2 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)

Directions

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).

Enjoy!

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.

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Filed under Recipes, Savoury Foods, Student Life

Warm minty feta salad

My amazing friend (and fellow food-lover) Kat and I first tried this salad whilst she was living with me over the summer.  I think it must have been September-ish – so it was still technically summer, but starting to get cold again (which would imply that it had actually been warm this summer – it wasn’t).  A semi-warm salad sounded like an excellent idea.  And indeed it turned out to be rather fantastic.

We both had a bit of a reminiscent craving for it over the weekend.  We decided to have a fridge left-over-based meal before leaving for the holidays, so we made this as a main course.  Yummy!

Apparently we ate most of the feta off the top - oops

We drank a chardonnay – Olivier Leflaive – Les Sétilles 2009 (Bourgogne) with it – which balanced the mint out really well.  Incidentally, I’ve previously ranted about the bizarre cork for the 2008 Les Sétilles, and we were glad to see that they appear to have sorted that out and just used a normal fake cork.

Warm minty feta salad

Serves 2
Adapted from Waitrose.

This salad would work well as a starter, or as a main course, or as a side salad to go with a barbeque (lamb skewers perhaps?).  Simply adjust the amount of each ingredient that goes in (particularly the cheese) as you see fit.  The measurements are completely adjustable anyway – that’s the beauty of salads!

Ingredients

200g of feta cheese (200g is the smallest amount in my local supermarket – might as well just use it all)
4 tbsp mint sauce (use less if you’re not a huge fan of mint)
1 small pack of mixed salad leaves
½ a small cucumber
2 tomatoes
175g jar of black olives in brine, drained
1 tbsp fresh mint, shredded (don’t worry if you don’t have any, just use extra mint sauce in the marinade)
1 tbsp vinaigrette (or more, depending on how saucy you like you salads)

Directions

1.  Cut the feta into about 16 even chunks.  Place these in a small bowl, add the mint sauce and gently mix without breaking up the cheese, until evenly coated.  Set aside to marinate for at least 10 mins.

2.  Cut the tomatoes and cucumber into 2-3cm chunks, along with the salad, if necessary.  Place in a salad bowl with the olive, fresh mint and vinaigrette and toss to combine.

3.  Warm a small non-stick frying pan over a medium to low heat.  Add the feta and cook  gently for about 4 mins, until the cubes start to melt a bit, but don’t colour.  Either spoon the salad into plates and serve the feta on top, or add the feta to the big salad bowl and gently mix.

Enjoy!

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Filed under Recipes, Savoury Foods