Salmon is my go-to meal in a hurry. It looks fancy, it tastes fantastic and it’s stuffed to the gills with all that Omega-3 goodness and I’m getting in a healthy dose of protein. But I’ve never thought too much about what kind of salmon I’m eating – I tend to just fling in a couple of packets from the supermarket, regardless of origin. I know, it’s pretty careless of me, what with all the news about unsustainable fishing and here I am, not even reading labels.
Enter Alaska Seafood – they’ve invited me to an evening cookery class over at Jamie Oliver’s Recipease in Notting Hill. Recipease is a half restaurant, half kitchen, half kitchen store and we’re shown to the top floor, with a kitchen and little prep stations all set up so we can try our hands at the cooking. We kick off proceedings with glasses of icy cold wine and munch canapes of smoked salmon bruschetta – these are gorgeous, just look at the colour on these beauties! We’re not in Kansas any more Toto!
Jose Souto, our chef for the night, then settles us into explaining why we’re there. He’s travelled to Alaska himself and seen how they run their fisheries system and his passion shines through loud and clear. Alaska is all about the sustainability – they run a live quota system, so they can assess what’s going on all the time, rather than relying on a standard number. What this translates to when you are looking at your fish options are choosing between wild salmon and farmed salmon.
How do you tell the difference? Well, farmed salmon is the kind I’ve most often seen in the shops – it’s a pretty coral colour and often has white stripes through it. Those stripes are fat and can make the farmed salmon seem oily and flaccid. I cook my salmon in my George Foreman Health grill and I do that to drain some of the fat out as I don’t like it to be too oily. Not a problem faced with the wild salmon. The wild salmon is pure muscle – salmon lead a vigorous existence, they migrate upstream, jumping through waterfalls and rivers to get back to their birthplace to spawn and so it’s only natural that the wild salmon is meatier, lower in fat and aesthetically speaking, has the most gorgeous bright orange colour.
Today we’re going to make salmon tartare and follow it up with a very simple baked Alaskan salmon with fennel and lemon. I’m so focussed on chopping my ingredients for my dishes that I totally miss I’m being Erica and Six out of Ten magazine – both of who I’ve been wanting to meet for ages! Guttered! You can read Laura’s exploits at our class here: http://www.sixoutoften.co.uk/2014/07/alaskan-salmon-at-recipease.html
We prep the baked salmon first so it can go in the oven and then we dice up the salmon for the tartare and add in all the other ingredients – dill, herbs, gherkin etc and then once it’s all mixed with the lemon juice, the tartare is done. The acid in lemon juice cooks the fish very quickly and so it’s not necessary to leave it and you should eat it as soon as mixed.
Despite Jose’s best effort, the Salmon tartare is a little fishy for me – although I think that’s because I’ve got a little bit too much salmon and that combined with my inexpertly chopped gherkin isn’t making for a good combination. So I focus over my attentions to the main event – the baked salmon. We’ve topped our salmon with slices of lemon and fennel powder – fennel adding a subtle flavour and aroma that goes so beautifully with the fish.
What’s my verdict? Well it’s a lot meatier and firm than the farmed kind of salmon and has a more distinct flavour of it’s own. When you do a compare and contrast, you can taste the oiliness that comes through the farmed kinda and the more firm texture of the wild salmon. Farmed salmon is a bit more moist, because of the fat, and so it’s really crucial to not overcook the wild Alaskan salmon so that it remains as moist as you expect.
But I really like that the wild Alaska salmon is a lot lower in calories – more room for dessert! The staff at Recipease really get my kind of logic and on our way out, they’re packing up all the desserts for the evening and they fill us up with takeaway boxes of their gorgeous desserts – what a send off!
Disclosure: I was a guest of Alaska Seafood, but in no way compelled to say nice things. I learnt a lot about responsible fishing and am proud to say I will make more informed choices at the fish counter in future. Tartare recipe below…
Wild Alaska salmon tartare with sweet pickled cucumber
1 side wild Alaska salmon
Dessert spoon of chopped dill
Dessert spoon of chopped flat leaf parsley
20g fine capers
½ large finely chopped shallot
20g small cocktail gherkins, finely chopped
Maldon salt & black pepper
Wild Alaska Keta caviar
Micro herbs selection (Sakura mix)
Aged balsamic or balsamic glaze
100ml white wine vinegar
1 star anise
1) Peel cucumber, deseed and dice into very small pieces
2) Bring vinegar, sugar and star anise to boil on stove and then chill in fridge
3) Once chilled, add cucumber and leave to infuse
4) Dice salmon into very small cubes and place in bowl
5) Mix dill, parsley, capers, shallot and gherkin together
6) When ready to serve, add salmon to the mixture
7) Add lemon juice and season
8) Mix well and use a food ring to plate up
Garnish with micro herbs, balsamic and pickled cucumber