WARNING! This is an old, tried and tested recipe that has been used for many, many years. It is, however, against current ‘elf and safety guidelines which insist you boil the bollocks and therefore the flavour out of the fish. I personally have used this loads of times and all I have received are great compliments. Farmers wives, who have been poaching (cooking, not nicking them) salmon all their lives have complimented me on the flavour and moistness of my salmon. Indeed, following a Summer Luncheon I voluntarily catered for the local hunt, several of the paying guests telephoned to thank me and said they would gladly have paid double the ticket price as the food was so good.
Firstly you will need the best salmon you can find. I use Turners the fish man from Ipswich, who comes to a village near me and I order the size I need, usually 14-15lbs (no kilos here). Mr Turner’s fish is fantastic and he is really knowledgeable and helpful too.
You will need a fish kettle, which can either be a long, stretched oval or if you can find one of the older style squareish kettles, which will ensure your salmon comes out curled around and once dressed, really does look impressive.
Then I use a jus de nage, which although originally unashamedly burgled from Marco Pierre White’s brilliant book, White Heat, I have also tweaked it a bit (sorry Marco).
You will need:
Half a bottle of dry white wine – get a decent one, you can have slurp of the rest – cooks perks
A couple of decent flavoured brown onions
A couple of celery stalks, I like to use the smaller inner ones with flowery bits
A few carrots
2 Star anise
Herbs – parsley, tarragon, thyme, chervil and coriander, bay leaf – I grow my own herbs which I find gives great flavour. If you can’t get tarragon, put in another star anise
Approximately 30 white and pink peppercorns – or use a mixed grinder
A couple of lemons cut into slices or quarters
2 whole heads of garlic cut across the head
Bung this (apart from the herbs and wine) into a pan (I use the fish kettle for this, saves washing up), rough chopped, cover with water (about 3 pints), bring to the boil and simmer for around 10 minutes. Add the herbs and simmer for a couple more minutes.
Remove from the heat and put in the wine you have left. Leave to cool, then put into the fridge to allow the flavours to fully infuse and develop.
This is your poaching liquid for the wonderful salmon you are going to make. Strain the poaching liquid through a sieve.
Wash your salmon thoroughly under cold running water. Place the fish into the kettle and cover it with the poaching liquid and the kettle lid. Ensure the lid is a tight fit. If it is loose, foil over the kettle then put the lid on. It is IMPERATIVE you keep any steam in the kettle as this will form part of the cooking process.
Put the kettle across the two hotter hobs and turn them onto full power. Bring the fish to a rolling boil and boil for around 1 minute. Yes 1 minute. Ensure you do this, as this will kill any bacteria. It is further IMPERATIVE you boil the salmon for at least 1 minute – certainly no less. Once this has been done, turn the heat off and leave the kettle in situ to cool down. Once it is cool enough put the whole thing into the fridge. I usually leave mine for a few hours. Most importantly, do not lift the lid to have a peak – this is really so important as you will destroy the cooking process and you could end up poisoning someone.
Once the kettle is cool enough, put it into the fridge to chill.
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