Monday 11 December 2017

Recipes: Rachel Allen says salmon is a wonderfully versatile, flavoursome fish

Salmon is a wonderfully versatile, flavoursome fish, says Rachel Allen, whether it's poached with hollandaise sauce, pan-fried or served as a light, refreshing tartare

Poached salmon with hollandaise
Poached salmon with hollandaise

With its delicate juicy flakes, salmon is a wonderfully impressive fish. Its proud pink flesh is packed with flavour and has been prized for centuries. I love how versatile salmon is; it's perfect pan-fried, poached, in sushi or as part of a fish pie.

Poached salmon with hollandaise is a classic for a reason, the rich flesh goes so well with lashings of buttery, lemony hollandaise. Pan-frying is great way of releasing salmon's flavourful oils. My second recipe uses cucumber and dill. Dill is a delicious herb that goes so well with salmon. The tartare would make a gorgeous starter, it's light and refreshing, but still quite substantial. It's only worth making if you have very fresh salmon.

Unfortunately, our appetite for salmon has been too great and stocks are depleted around the world. Drift-net fishing for salmon is now completely banned in Ireland and other methods are tightly controlled. Because of this, wild salmon can be difficult to get hold of, although it is possible to buy some river-caught salmon -- try your fishmonger or see

Farmed salmon is a much more economical alternative to wild salmon. However there are questions as to its sustainability, due to the large amounts of wild fish that must be fed to the farmed fish, as well as the levels of antibiotics and other harmful chemicals used. Organic farmed salmon is different, it uses less artificial chemicals and the fish are fed with organic feed that is more sustainably sourced. This makes organic farmed salmon a much more environmentally friendly option.

Poached salmon with hollandaise


Serves 4.

You will need:

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon cold water

125g (4oz) butter, diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Squeeze of lemon juice

18-20cm (7-8in) piece of salmon, still on the bone, cut from a whole fish that has been gutted and descaled (ask your fishmonger to do this if necessary)

To make the hollandaise sauce, place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water on a low heat. Add the egg yolks and a tablespoon of cold water and whisk together. Gradually add the diced butter, bit by bit, allowing each addition to melt and emulsify as it is whisked in, before adding the next.

Once all the butter has been added, cook for a few minutes more, stirring regularly, until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Taste and season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and the lemon juice. Remove from the heat and keep warm -- if necessary, by leaving to sit over the warm water -- until you're ready to serve.

To prepare the salmon, choose a saucepan that will just fit the fish. Add water and a tablespoon of salt for every 1.2 litres (2pt) water. Place the saucepan on a high heat and bring to the boil. Slide in the salmon, making sure it's covered by the water, bring back up to the boil and then reduce the heat, cover and gently simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave the salmon to stand in the liquid for five minutes, which will continue cooking the fish.

Carefully remove the salmon from the water, then remove the skin and any brown sediment by scraping gently with a small, sharp knife. You will see that there are four segments of salmon on the bone. Run the knife carefully down the seam of each segment to release the portions away from the bone, giving four portions in total.

Serve immediately with the hollandaise sauce.

Salmon with cucumbers and dill

Serves 4.

You will need:

50g (2oz) butter, diced

4 x 125g (4 1/2oz) salmon fillets, with the skin left on if you wish

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roughly 1/4 peeled cucumber, cut into 1cm (1/4in) dice

A squeeze of lemon juice

4 teaspoons chopped dill

Place a frying pan on a medium-high heat. When it is just hot, add a couple of knobs of the butter, very quickly followed by the salmon fillets, with the presentation side down. Fry for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown underneath, then turn over, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and fry for another couple of minutes or until the fish is just cooked through. (The timing will depend on the thickness of the salmon fillets and heat of the pan.)

Add the diced cucumber, along with the remaining butter and cook for a further two minutes, then add the lemon juice. Season to taste, adding more lemon juice if necessary. Transfer the salmon on to warmed plates, stir the chopped dill into the mixture on the pan and pour over the fish to serve.

Salmon tartare

Serves 4.

You will need:

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/4 teaspoon lime zest

125g (4 1/2oz) cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut into fine dice -- about 1/2cm (1/4in)

2 teaspoons coriander, finely chopped

350g (14oz) very fresh salmon fillet, skin removed and cut into 1cm (1/4in) dice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Use a 7-8cm ring mould or a plastic half-litre drinking bottle cut into rings.

In a mixing bowl, mix together the freshly grated ginger, the lime juice and the lime zest, then the peeled, deseeded and diced cucumber, the finely chopped coriander and the skinned, diced salmon fillet. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and, when mixing, be careful not to break up the fish too much.

Place the ring in the centre of a plate and fill with some of the mixture to a depth of about 2-3cm. Repeat with the remaining portions then serve.


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