How to deal with a whole salmon

I have lost count of the number of meals I prepared over the Christmas and New Year period, but have now reached a point where we are simply using up the left overs. Tonight I will be making fish cakes with the salmon, left over from New Years Eve lunchtime. The salmon has already helped to provide for 14 and there’s a decent part left.

I was lucky, in that I was in the right place at the right time as the fishman in Sainsbury put out the new batch of whole salmon just before Christmas. It was marked at Ā£8 and was suitable for home freezing, having not been previously frozen. I was unlucky, in that when I arrived home to put the salmon in the freezer I discovered that the small freezer which forms the bottom of my kitchen fridge was failing to keep the contents below -6c. This necessitated a clear out and sort out in order to fit the newly acquired salmon into the bottom of my much older utility freezer. Such is life.

My menu plan had not included a whole salmon. My menu plan was duly updated!

I defrosted the fish and cooked it in my fish kettle as directed by Jane Grigson, though with less salt, primarily due to the fact I didn’t have enough salt to make a stronger than sea water strength as she recommends. I also let it cool completely in the water overnight at the back of the garage as it was too late to stay up and sort it out the same evening as I cooked it! It is delicious.

Jane Grigson’s fish book is one of those recipe books which could be taken to bed to read: it is so interesting and full of far more than just set recipes, so I can recommend it highly.

One of my presents this year was a new slow cooker. I have had a slow cooker since the 80s, but last time I used it the seal separating the unit from the electrics became dislodged and I am a little concerned that it may not be reliable, or indeed safe. The new unit has a 6.5 l capacity. I made an old favourite recipe, adapted from an old M and S cookbook recipe for, ‘Gingered Beef.’ Ideal to come home to after an afternoon at the theatre

Gingered beef
675 g (1.5 lbs) braising steak cut into 1ā€ cubes
50 g (2 oz) flour
s & p
1.5 tsp powdered ginger
1 tablespoons grated root ginger (or more according to taste)
1 clove garlic crushed
2 onions peeled and sliced
1 x 225 g (8 oz) can tomatoes
300 mls stock
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Worcester sauce
1 can red kidney beans

  1. Coat the meat with flour and ground ginger, s & p.
  2. Fry the meat to seal. Transfer to casserole dish
  3. Fry the root ginger garlic and onions till soft then add the rest of the flour and cook 1 minute.
  4. Gradually add the stock, toms, vinegar, honey, Worcs sauce. Season and bring to boil.
  5. Add this mixture to meat in casserole dish.
  6. Cook in slow cooker for 5-7 hours
  7. Add beans and stir in. Adjust seasoning replace lid and allow to come back up to temperature.

Incidentally the old slow cooker coped with cooking some spiced red cabbage to have with the casserole.

What was the best dish you had over the Christmas period?

Author: Sarah

No time to lose. No, time to lose. Make time to stand and stare.... Did you see that?

13 thoughts on “How to deal with a whole salmon”

  1. Yes, indeed, Soutie. Smelt fishy to the kitten too. She was beside herself with anticipation of a fishy supper šŸ™‚

  2. Actually, I always remember Coldwaterjohn’s method with a whole salmon. Wrap it well with foil and pop it in the dishwasher.

    I haven’t actually tried it!

  3. Fish cakes.
    Substitute mashed boiled rice for most of the potatoes, it makes them far lighter and more appetising, then heavy on the dill and fresh parsley.
    Retain at least 1 spud for stickability plus egg and a light touch of grated onion.
    Mash rice with potato masher, do not reduce to a glutinous mess.
    I also use chilli powder in the flouring before egg and breadcrumbing them.

    Suggest that you try a substitution in the gingered beef using soy instead of worcs sauce and vinegar.

    We always go to our restaurant friends for Christmas, he knows his meat to perfection but his desserts are not up to my standards! I always make a hazelnut pavlova, filled this year with a chocolate cream. (Really good Belgian chocolate) Large, about 12″ in diameter. There are generally ten of us, never a crumb left unless I cut an extra slice for her and put it in the fridge. I might add this is in addition to a proper home made Christmas pudding, rum sauce, brandy butter and a plate of homemade mince pies! There are always three chefs at this dinner, Herb who has one of the most successful restaurants in the County, Benno his nephew who is head chef of the largest hotel at Vancouver airport and me! Neither of them ever bring or will make desserts, they are prebooked year on year, quite funny really. As with most cooking it is never/rarely the recipe always the technique, especially on the old classic dishes.

  4. Ara, my Ma has done salmon in the fishwasher too….

    Thanks for your suggestions, Christina. Will try out the fishcake idea, but my own version cooking now!
    And the soy instead of Worcs sauce next time I make that dish.

  5. Hello Pseu: You may remember that I grew up on the river Wye, most of my father’s generation were salmon fishermen. I don’t remember my mother ever buying salmon in a store they always appeared on the doorstep whole in a burlap sack. She always poached them in a huge copper kettle with a lift out tray (the homestead didn’t run to a dishwasher in the fifties), by the time we ate them they were “twice poached” as my mum used to say.

  6. My fish kettle is a stainless steel one, similar to this:

    How lovely to get a free delivery – even if poached!

  7. the fish kettle is too long to sit across the hob and had to go diagonally over two plates.

  8. That seems a remarkably cheap salmon. We’d get two pieces for that much!

    Sounds delicious!

  9. LW me too for method.

    Secret is never let the bugger boil, dries out the flesh!
    Bring the fish kettle up to just a simmer, extremely slowly, pull off immediately, leave to cool in water.
    No need to weigh, just bring a big fish up to temp in about an hour and a small one 30 mins.
    Usual bits and pieces. bay leaves, lemon rinds, peppercorns salt. And LW and I may use ‘Bay Seasoning’
    Never seen it in the UK, a deep Southern spice mixture for shellfish boils, water baths for smoking, endless uses. If you can ever lay your hands on it buy it and work it out afterwards, a bit fearsome to actually put in food but more for aroma inducing!

    A serious salmon recipe.

    Darnes of salmon, (a 45 degree parallelogram cut from a filleted side, better than straight cut steaks, do it yourself from a side as there are no decent fishmongers left, just mongers!!!See internet or a good old fashioned picture cookery. Helps if you leave the skin on whilst you cut them, taking them off the skin at the end of the cut.)

    Poach salmon in quarter lb butter and several glugs of dry martini with lid, so it part steams. small, v small clove garlic.
    When salmon done lift out, cover with lid to keep warm,
    Boil down martini to a couple of tablespoons, add half a pint or so of double cream, boil until thick, stirring.

    (This is called a hot emulsion sauce for those of you who need to look it up and find out more about it.
    Plenty of chopped. dill/fennel and chopped parsley. FRESH not dried. Fresh ground pepper, if you have used salted butter this is generally enough salt.
    Put fish back to heat up and serve at once.
    I generally do this with boiled rice and asparagus.
    Jimmy quantities according to how many salmon portions are being used.

    These herbs are such staples for fish cooking I grow the every summer, harvest when perfect, do not wash,chop and freeze in tubs together about 2/3 parsley to 1/3 fennel, perfect for a quick handful all year, saves a lot of money and quality buying fresh (stale imported) herbs in winter!

    Like mayo, this cracks on the uninitiated, but still tastes good, practise on family until you’ve got it right!
    In the same category as bearnaise and more difficult than hollandaise.

    Actually this fish recipe is too die for if you can master it, had it from a Swiss chef I employed who was Michelin star status. ( Like all of them, (men) he had to go too in time! But not before I pinched his best recipes.)

  10. pseu how much a lb?
    V lucky here as Bellingham is a home port for some of the Alaskan fleet. When there is a good run we get best Chinook or Sockeye for $3/lb, I always buy 6 or so and straight in the freezer.
    Pink here when it runs, is down to about 99c/lb! Another 6 or so! Wonderful for fish cakes that I make and keep standing in the freezer, much better than disgusting spic pizza for fast food!
    Normally the rest of the year, prime salmon is $6-8 /lb

    As you like cooking pseu and have an eye for a bargain you really do need a cavernous freezer, so much more economical, or at least you eat better for the same housekeeping. Throw a car out of the garage!!!

    Bo, Australia really does sound the most awful place for food, is there anything good and cheap there?
    It seems the basics are SO expensive, do people earn a lot more there to pay for it all?

  11. Pseu: My mother’s salmon poacher was similar in shape and also very large ( took up most of the stove when in use). As Christine says the cooking time was short even for a big fish, not much more than getting up to simmer and then shutting down, she always left the fish in the water until it cooled, not cold but tepid, and always served with new potatoes at the same temperature. Some things are so much better served just warm, fresh salmon and new potatoes being prime examples.

    Here’s Old Bay seasoning, made in Baltimore for 60 years or so, this 5 ounce tin would not go far at home, I put about that much on a bushel of crabs when I steam them. I usually buy the industrial size five pound drum.

  12. Thank you for adding the image of the fish kettle!
    And thank you for all those culinary details Christina. I like the sound of that salmon with martini and cream,

    I can’t remember what weight the salmon was, but it filled my large fish kettle and Ā£8 was an especially good price: I have paid more for four fillets! Tomorrow I’m planning to revisit the supermarket to see if they are still on offer.

    As to the freezer / fridge problem: I’m asking for an estimate to rectify the problem of this current fridge freezer being ‘built in’ – I want to replace with a stand alone fridge /freezer

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