My Nan’s Salmon Fishcakes

My Nans Salmon Fishcakes
This week has not been the most productive. It’s mainly involved me feeling sorry for myself on the sofa wrapped in a rug chugging back the paracetamol whilst constantly being tossed onto the floor by a particularly space hogging puppy.

I have been seeking my creature comforts this week and today seemed an especially appropriate day to wake up an old timey recipe from hibernation. My Nan’s fishcakes. She was absolutely famous for them in our family. Now, my Nan wasn’t a great cook, she was very much a child of rations, plain food and making do, but there are a few things in her repertoire which I still make as an adult and get such a childish pleasure from. Her trifle was in a class of its own, made from Bird’s custard, tinned fruit puree and a packet of sponge fingers, but it couldn’t be bettered. Her beef stew consisted of beef simply stewed with potato and carrots until it had boiled down to almost a thickened soup, but its comfort factor cannot be surpassed. It was her salmon fishcakes though which we have always considered her culinary masterpiece.

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When we needed a bit of cheering up, perhaps we’d had a long week at school, it would perk us up no end when we’d get home from school on a Saturday lunchtime (yes, we went to school on Saturdays, don’t ask) and Mum would say that Nan had made us some fishcakes for a treat. There was no better reward for double maths, double chemistry on a Saturday (seriously that was the lesson plan, sadists ran our school) and we could easily eat the whole plateful she had made us to last the weekend in a single sitting.

My Nans Salmon Fishcakes

These are probably the most simple salmon fishcakes you will come across and they have a very special and secret ingredient, tinned salmon. When I first found out that was how she made them I was horrified. It just seemed so wrong. But really the taste is unique, and despite how much I love a good fresh salmon fishcake, these ones are imbued with a more intensely sweet flavour which is entirely different. And to be honest, there isn’t a whole lot of salmon in these anyway. These fishcakes are more like mashed potato cakes kissed with a sweet blush of salmon. However that salmon flavour perfumes the whole cake.

My Nans Salmon Fishcakes

When I asked Nan once how she made them she just said mashed potato and tinned salmon. That was her recipe. Now, I’ve taken a liberty or two with my Nan’s recipe as I have added a few snipped chives, just because I couldn’t resist. I also included a generous amount of ground white pepper for a bit more of a kick and salt, which I know Nan definitely wouldn’t have used. She didn’t really buy into seasoning.

My Nans Salmon Fishcakes

The way to serve Nan’s fishcakes is and always will be non-negotiable, with HP sauce. It is in fact the only time I will ever eat HP sauce as if I’m pressed I’m not sure I really like it. However, here, when the crunchy crumbed shell which encases the sweetly soft interior is paired with the deep tang of the brown sauce, the result is sublime and the only thing in the whole world I feel like eating at the moment.

My Nans Salmon Fishcakes

My Nan’s Salmon Fishcakes
Makes about 6

800g potatoes
100g salted butter, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 x 170g tin wild skinless and boneless red salmon
1 tablespoon of snipped chives
1 egg, lightly beaten
85g breadcrumbs (panko breadcrumbs or gf if you like)
50g flour (plain or gf)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Peel and quarter the potatoes then place in a large pan of salted boiling water.
  2. Bring the potatoes back to the boil then simmer for 25 minutes until the potatoes are soft.
  3. Drain the potatoes, then add them back into the pan with the butter. Add the white pepper then mash until the potato is incredibly smooth.
  4. Tip the potato into a bowl then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours until the potato is cold.
  5. Drain the salmon and mix with the cold potato and the chives, until evenly dispersed.
  6. Shape the potato and fish mixture into patties of equal weight, about 125g, then place on a plate and put back in the fridge to settle for half an hour.
  7. Separate the flour, egg and breadcrumbs into separate bowls, then remove the fishcakes from the fridge and coat each fishcake; first with the flour, then with the egg, then the breadcrumbs.
  8. Heat a very wide heavy based saucepan and drop in 2 tablespoons of the oil until warm.
  9. With the heat on low, shallow fry the fishcakes in batches, 7 minutes on each side, then place on kitchen towel to drain.
  10. Replenish the pan with another tablespoon of oil after each batch has finished cooking.
  11. Serve the fishcakes with a light salad and plenty of brown sauce.
  12. These fishcakes freeze very well so make a huge stash for emergencies.

Fish Soup with Rouille

Fish Soup with Rouille
When I told my Mum I was making fish soup this week I could hear her nostalgia through the phone line as we both thought of the same thing, Dad’s fish soup. The memories of it are powerful, a deep tomato sauce spicy and imbued with pungent garlic. Our bowls would be overfilled with prawns, mussels, cod and salmon and we would always without fail eat it with hunks of white crusty bread slathered with salted butter which we would plunge into our soup bowls, gathering up fish and as it dripped with tomato sauce.

That said, this is nothing like my father’s fish soup so sorry if you are now longing for that dish instead of this one. When I began my soup that is exactly what I had intended but then halfway through the preparation I became sidetracked by the thought of the wonderful bouillabaisse I had at Ondine in Edinburgh last year which relies more on a stock based soup instead of tomato. So in the end this turned into a very bastardised version of that.

Now, the first thing you need to do when making a bouillibaissey type soup is to make your fish stock…

Guys, I could not be bothered with making a fish stock. Sometimes you just don’t want the faff to deal with fish heads and bones, cooking for hours then straining and blah blah blah. I had some chicken stock in the freezer so that was fine by me I decided. I will not decry you if you want to be less lazy than me, although I might think you were trying to show me up. You could buy fresh fish stock from the fishmonger which would make your version more authentic but I’d still be on top as I made my stock myself, despite the chefs in Provence scoffing and shaking their heads in disgust at me. Basically what I’m saying is that you need stock and you can be lazy about it. But not too lazy, heaven forfend did I hear you utter Knorr?

Fish Soup with Rouille

I served my soup with a rouille which is a traditional accompaniment to bouillabaisse and made with lots of garlic, saffron, bread and olive oil. However, I have messed around with that too and used white potato as a base for it instead of bread. Actually I used jersey royals which I’m sure in some circles I would be shot for. Restaurants tell us jersey royals should be prepared one way only, the soil should be lightly brushed away then the potato grazed with boiling water and served plainly with a kiss of butter so we can appreciate their sheer potato royalty. Well, I boiled it until it fell apart then blitzed it in my processor with oodles of garlic, chipotle, egg and olive oil. Yum. Although it was just laziness again as when I noticed I had a few jersey royals in, suddenly the shop with the correct floury potato seemed so far away. The good thing about using jersies is that you don’t need to peel them, I think it added to the flavour, although if you want a smoother rouille, you might want to do without the peel.

The rouille should have the consistency of a mayonnaise and if I haven’t done so already in this post I would just like to shame myself further as when I made the rouille I had to taste it, to check for seasoning, make sure I wasn’t adding too much chipotle in there etc. Then when I had got it just right, I took a few more tastes just to make sure. Yeah, that’s okay so far, but even then when I was so positively sure that I had got the flavour balance perfectly, I took just a few more spoonfuls. Then some more. Then some more. So, this sauce is like that. Prettee tastee.

It was lucky that I was spending the afternoon by myself as no one would have come near me after that, I went to say hello to the cat and it shot out of the room faster than a celebrity responding to the ice bucket challenge. So the rouille had depleted somewhat before it made it to the photos, but this recipe makes tonnes so you don’t need to worry if chef gets a little carried away. You only really need a dollop of it on your soup, but you may not be able to stop there and maybe possibly it might need to have its own bowl with a spoon for you to attack when you’ve finished your soup. That’s okay, there’s no judging here. But be warned, it is garlicky and then some.

It’s a bit of a family Friday today as I’ve talked about my Mum, my Dad and now I’m going to talk about my sister who gave me these gorgeous fish bowls last Christmas which she brought back for me from Spain. As soon as I opened them I was imagining bowls of rich fish soup and so I’m thrilled that the meal that I was planning 8 months ago has now finally come to pass. So now you know that I am always late as well as lazy.

Fish Soup with Rouille

Fish Soup with Rouille
Serves 4

600g Monkfish
500g Salmon fillet
8 Prawns
60ml olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 celery stick, diced
1 leek, sliced into thin rounds
½ fennel bulb, peeled and finely diced
1 carrot, diced
1 red chilli, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp sun-blush tomatoes (optional)
1 beefsteak tomato, diced
2 tbsp tomato puree
¼ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp sweet paprika
Grated zest of ½ small orange
120ml white wine
A pinch of saffron
1 litre stock, fish or chicken or vegetable

For the Rouille
300g cooked potato
A pinch of saffron
1 tsp chipotle in adobo (or harissa)
2 garlic cloves
1 egg yolk
½ tsp salt
black pepper
100-150ml light olive oil

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, celery and leek. Cook for 3-4 minutes then add the fennel, carrot, chilli and garlic cloves. Stir it all together on a gentle heat for about 15 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.
  2. Add the sun-blush tomatoes if you are using them, then stir in the beefsteak tomato, tomato puree, cumin, paprika and the orange zest. Cook for 5 minutes, then as the tomato is beginning to break down, add the white wine and saffron.
  3. Stir the wine through and as it begins to bubble pour in the stock and add seasoning.
  4. Turn the heat down to low and place the lid on the saucepan, cook for 30 minutes so the flavours get to know each other and the vegetables cook all the way through.
  5. Remove the saucepan from the heat and using an immersion blender, whizz up the soup so that it’s completely smooth. Check for seasoning.
  6. Prepare your fish by washing, removing the skin from the salmon and dicing the salmon and the monkfish. De-vein the prawns by snipping along their back shell with a sharp pair of kitchen scissors, then pulling out the long black thread buried just underneath the surface of their backs.
  7. Chill the fish until ready to use.
  8. Heat up the soup on a gentle heat then once piping hot, add the fish and place the lid on the saucepan. Cook for about 5 minutes until the prawns turn pink and the monkfish and salmon are cooked all the way through. Try not to disturb the fish too much as you don’t want it to break up.
  9. Serve with a garnish of parsley and the rouille.
  10. To make the rouille, put the cooked potato in a food processor, along with the saffron, chipotle in adobo, garlic cloves and salt and pepper and mix together.
  11. Once it’s all turned to a lovely puree then add the egg yolk and whizz again.
  12. With the food processor on, pour in the olive oil in a very slow and steady stream as if you were making mayonnaise. How much depends on the potatoes you are using but you want it to be a thick mayonnaise consistency.
  13. When it’s ready, check for seasoning before removing it from the food processor and serving.

Sesame Salmon Tartare: Day 22 of Whole30

Sesame Salmon Tartare
So I am finally on my last week of Whole30. I will not lie to you, it has been difficult. It isn’t so much the everyday eating which is all well and good as I love a bit of a salad, I am happy to eat my fair share of protein and I will wolf down pretty much any vegetable you put in front of me. However, I have felt a bit out at sea when I plain don’t want to cook or am out and about and have to rely on someone else’s cooking.

Salmon Marinade  |  Stroud Green Larder

Salmon Tartare  |  Stroud Green Larder

Good luck to you if you want to eat at a restaurant on the Whole30, it’s not an easy prospect due to restrictions on carbs, dairy, legumes and sugar but I just about managed it this weekend due to The Maynard in Crouch End’s hog roast stall. It was a bit of a palaver as I had to order the two components of my meal separately. I went into the pub to order the side salad off their normal bar menu and then once it had arrived I went out to the front of the pub to the special hog roast stall they had set up that day to order my pork sans brioche burger. It worked well in my favour though as I think he took pity on me for just ordering a pile of meat and served me the biggest portion of pork you can imagine. It ended up being a delicious lunch but it was the third pub we had gone into to try and find food and my hunger was beginning to turn me into the Hulk.

Dressed Cucumber  |  Stroud Green Larder

Black and White Sesame Seeds  |  Stroud Green Larder

In my normal every day life I eat out at restaurants a lot. I like to try new food, sample the extraordinary dishes of talented chefs and also, since I spend so much time in the kitchen myself, I am always looking for a bit of a break where someone else can cook for me. It is my absolute bugbear, therefore, that when I am trying to watch what I eat there is so little catering for that in the big wide world. So excuse me if I have a mini tantrum; feel free to skip down to the part where I discuss the recipe below if you can’t bear it, I have some nice things to say about my new salmon invention. Still reading, okay, you were warned. I look forward to the days, as I know they will arrive soon, when more UK restaurants and pubs understand that you don’t need carbs to have an enriching, complex and exciting meal. Salads and vegetables should be celebrated and treated like the main event and not an afterthought or a side dish. I know I can eat like this at home so is it so difficult to eat like this out of home? A few restaurants already understand this kind of cooking implicitly, the Ottolenghi restaurants always have queues stretching out the door and round the corner and it’s no wonder, the sheer variety in their ingredients and flavours is outstanding. Bruno Loubet’s Grainstore in Kings Cross also prides itself on giving vegetables equal billing, if not the starring role, to the meat and their menu is always fantastic and innovative. However, until these kind of restaurants become more prolific and pubs offer a more diverse menu then we will have to satisfy ourselves at home.

Sesame Salmon Tartare  |  Stroud Green Larder

This sesame salmon tartare is a wonderful example of a carb free, sugar free and dairy free recipe which is just so satisfying and bounteous with all kinds of levels of flavour. It seems a bit fancy but it is really just a gussied up salad with no more skill required than just a bit of chopping and stirring. But then you taste it and you come right back to fancy again.

Sesame Salmon Tartare  |  Stroud Green LarderWhen you mention raw fish you tend to think of sushi or ceviche which can sound a bit clever and terrifying as you are dealing with raw fish. However, just make sure you trust where your fish is coming from and you’ll be fine to prepare either one at home. This recipe lies more on the ceviche side than the sushi side as the lime juice in the marinade ‘cooks’ the fish. The salmon is absolutely delicious on its own with a definite hint of umami but with the addition of lightly dressed cucumber and naked avocado it becomes a proper event. It’s the kind of food that requires you to sit at the table and savour every mouthful. Don’t skimp on the sesame seed garnish either, if you can’t get hold of the black sesames just use the white ones, as they provide such a welcome delicate crunch to compliment the soft salmon and the creamy avocado.

Sesame Salmon Tartare  |  Stroud Green Larder

This recipe is perhaps a tad too much for two but if you serve it for four then it’s an excellent starter if you are having people over to dinner.

Sesame Salmon Tartare
Serves 2-4

350g salmon fillet, skin removed
Juice of 3 limes
25ml sesame oil
25ml coconut aminos (or soy sauce if you are not Whole30)
1 chilli, sliced thinly
2 avocados
½ cucumber
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp light olive oil
1 tsp black sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 tsp white sesame seeds, lightly toasted

  1. In a medium sized bowl mix together the lime juice, sesame oil, coconut aminos and chilli.
  2. Then dice the salmon into small cubes and submerge into the marinade. Stir everything together so the marinade can fully absorb into the salmon then put cling film over the top and place into the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, peel, de-stone and slice the avocado thinly, arrange it at the bottom of your serving dishes.
  4. Then prepare the dressing for the cucumber by mixing together the rice vinegar and olive oil.
  5. Peel and scoop out the seeds from the cucumber. Dice it very finely then add it to the dressing, mixing it all up thoroughly. Pile the cucumber on top of the avocado on your serving dishes.
  6. Then arrange your salmon on top and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.

Rosemary Salt Encrusted Salmon with Sweet Potato Crisps: Day 3 of Whole 30

Rosemary Salt Encrusted Salmon with Sweet Potato Crisps
This is the kind of supper you will be needing on the Whole30, the kind that can be thrown together in a hurry after a long day.   Sweet potato is one of the few high carbohydrate foods you can eat on the Whole30 but that doesn’t mean we should go mad. I limit myself to sweet potato on days when I am really doing some punishing exercise and if it means I have to go for an extra run as I have a sweet potato craving, well surely that can only be a good thing. I just read through that last sentence and it made me sound ever so saintly, c’mon guys you know me, the days I get sweet potato are few and far between.

Sweet Potato Crisps  |  Stroud Green Larder

Sweet Potato Crisps  |  Stroud Green Larder

By cooking finely sliced sweet potatoes in a single layer on your baking tray, not only will you create some lovely crisps to be enjoyed as part of your meal (not as a snack, that just doesn’t sit right on the Whole30 plan) but they only take about 20–30 minutes in a good hot oven so they don’t require an awful lot of effort.

Rosemary Salt Encrusted Salmon  |  Stroud Green Larder

The idea here is to create a lovely balance of textures between the velvety soft salmon and the crisp discs of sweet potato. I love grilled salmon, and since it already has so much flavour all you really need is to help it along a bit with some flavoured salt, this cuts down on the preparation time so you’ve got more of an evening to chill out on the sofa. We have to cook so many meals from scratch on the Whole30 that quick and easy are the watchwords.

Rosemary Salt Encrusted Salmon with Sweet Potato Crisps  |  Stroud Green Larder

This really doesn’t require much of a recipe as it relies really on the pot of rosemary salt which I usually have hanging about in my storecupboard. If you want to make your own it is a quick 5 minute job which will save you plenty of time if you want to quickly pep up a lamb steak or season some roasted parsnips. Just take a few stalks of rosemary, strip them of their leaves and finely chop the leaves to within an inch of their life. Then mix in with about 60g sea salt and decant into a little jar. It will keep for a very long time. Of course, you can also do this with thyme, fennel or any of your woody herbs.

I served this with a mountainous pile of steamed kale which added some much needed greenery to the affair.

Rosemary Salt Encrusted Salmon with Sweet Potato Crisps  |  Stroud Green Larder

Rosemary Salt Encrusted Salmon with Sweet Potato Crisps
Serves 2

2 salmon fillets
1 tsp rosemary salt (or 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary)
⅛ tsp ground white pepper
400g sweet potato
2 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp smoked garlic powder
½ tsp sea salt
A bit of black pepper

  1. Rub the rosemary salt and the white pepper into the flesh of each salmon fillet then set aside.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C and line a couple of baking trays with baking parchment.
  3. Peel, then finely slice the sweet potato into circles, if you have a mandolin then do use that, otherwise just thinly with a knife will also get the job done.
  4. Pour the olive oil, smoked garlic powder, sea salt and black pepper over the sweet potato circles and coat thoroughly. Then lay out onto the baking trays in single layers, don’t worry if they have to overlap a bit though to get them all in.
  5. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, depending how thin you sliced the potatoes. They should come out when the very edges are starting to turn crisp. I’d recommend just taking a bite out of the largest circle to ensure they will all be cooked all the way through.
  6. Meanwhile pre-heat the grill to the highest setting, then when hot place the salmon under. I find that it is usually perfectly cooked when the surface has started to turn golden after about 10 minutes. Do check though by carefully inserting a knife into the fleshiest part as different thicknesses of salmon fillets will cook at different times.
  7. Serve the salmon with the sweet potato crisps and some steamed kale.

Salmon Beetroot and Dill Gravlax

Salmon Beetroot and Dill Gravlax

These past few mornings have been particularly unhospitable for new dog walkers like ourselves.  At an ungodly hour we bundle up in hats, scarves, gloves and holey thermals to traipse round a gloomy Finsbury Park, watching as the sun lazily climbs the sky.  The puppy loves to crunch his paws on the glittery leaves as we dangerously skid after him on icy puddles.  The forty minutes we are in the park London comes alive, as the trickle of hardened joggers and committed dog walkers are soon followed by the whoosh of hi-vis cyclists tempting puppy with the chase.  By 8am a gentle stream of commuters are taking the shortcut through the park on the way to the tube.  The morning may have arrived but it has not yet brought any warmth.

IMG_3095These frosted mornings have encouraged me to seek out comfort in classic cooking.  The bright fresh unfussy influence of Scandinavian recipes has been luring me in, shown off in photographs with the natural clear light you can only get in a Nordic kitchen.  I have been to neither Sweden, Norway nor Denmark but the urge to visit has been growing year on year and 2014 I think may be the year to finally splurge across the sea.
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This salmon gravlax, a quintessential Scandinavian dish, is simple but very effective for special occasions.  It’s vastly preferred in our house to bought smoked salmon which can sometimes feel too greasy and overpowering.  But this salmon is delicate and richly flavoured and stunning with the blush of beetroot.

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If you want to scale it down for a more intimate occasion then it can easily be done with a couple of salmon fillets and less of the cure.  The preparation takes next to no time then just a few days of sitting pretty in the fridge, so don’t feel like you have to wait for a feasting occasion.   Just so you know, valentines is around the corner.

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Salmon Beetroot and Dill Gravlax

Adapted for quantities from Diana Henry’s Salt Sugar Smoke
Serves 12

1 kilo salmon fillet
6 tbsp vodka
125g granulated sugar
100g sea salt flakes
2 tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
large bunch dill, roughly chopped
400g raw beetroot, grated

  1. Check the salmon for any bones that the fishmonger might have missed and remove.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the sugar, salt, pepper, dill and beetroot.
  3. Line a large dish, big enough to hold the salmon with two large layers of foil. Lay the salmon on top and sprinkle with the vodka, rubbing over to make sure it’s absorbed.
  4. Tip all the beetroot and dill mixture over and make sure the salmon is fully coated.
  5. Wrap the foil tightly over the salmon, tucking it in at all sides.
  6. Place in the fridge for 2-4 days, making sure to turn the salmon regularly so the cure reaches all of the salmon. If liquid seeps through the foil, just pour it off.
  7. Remove the foil and scrape the dill and beetroot off the salmon.
  8. Serve slivered finely with a pickled cucumber salad and rye bread.
  9. The salmon keeps well in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
salmon gravadlax

 

 

Chipotle Salmon with Black Kale Rice

What’s green, has a fantastic bite and currently taking over my kitchen at an alarming rate.  No, not Audrey II, although a lot of the time this house does feel like a scene from Little Shop of Horrors but perhaps that’s because I like to sing a wonky version of Suddenly Seymour whilst making my dinner.

No, the answer I was looking for was kale, which you would so know the answer to if you had been reading an earlier post.  Perhaps if I resisted from buying it every time I go to the grocer then it wouldn’t be springing up at every other mealtime but it’s perfectly in season and darn it it’s so hot right now.  Did you know you can even get kale crisps, they are super delicious and healthy so do seek them out.

Dinner last night was my organic black kale’s last hurrah and boy did she go out with a bang.  Her robust earthy leaves teamed heroically with the tender flakes of salmon, their full flavours allowing me to add a gentle kick of chipotle to the proceedings.  If you don’t have chipotle powder then it’s not the end of the world, it does have more of a distinctive flavor than generic chili powder, but please work with what you have.  I didn’t want this to be a risotto as I wanted the grains of rice to stand on their own so I used basmati which also meant I didn’t have to stand around stirring it the whole time and I could really give Suddenly Seymour my full attention.

Chipotle Salmon with Black Kale Rice

Serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, cut into fine rings
100g black kale, or any kale, shredded
180g rice
250ml good chicken stock
2 x salmon fillets
1 tsp chipotle or any chili powder
1 knob butter

  1. Heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a wide bottomed pan then add the leeks.  Stir for 5 mins until they are just starting to soften.
  2. Add the rice and stir to coat it in the oil and mix in with the leek.  Season well with salt and pepper.
  3. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil.  Add the kale.  Give everything a good mix then put the lid on, stirring occasionally.
  4. Rub the flesh side of each salmon filet with ½ tsp each of chili powder then place skin side down under a preheated grill.  The salmon is ready when the flesh starts to turn golden which should take about 10 mins.
  5. By this time the rice should have absorbed all of the stock but retained a slight bite.  If not, give it a few more minutes.
  6. Stir in a small knob of butter to the rice and kale and serve with the salmon.

This may have been the black kale’s last stand but there are plenty more varieties jostling for space in my veg basket so kale world domination is not over yet.