Although a salmon spends its life at sea, because traditionally it was caught at the mouth of the river on its way upstream, it is counted as freshwater fish.
It’s perfect for foil cooking or pan-seared and, for entertaining, a traditional Russian Salmon Coulibiac made with puff pastry is still a favourite.
The salmon has a fascinating career. Once matured – anything between two and seven years old – it will always return to the same river to spawn, sometimes to the exact spot where it was itself hatched. Unfortunately, once a salmon enters the river it stops feeding and starts to deteriorate in quality. So commercially sold salmon are always caught in the estuary just as they leave the sea.
Their season starts in February and goes on till mid-September: prices begin to descend from June when there are more salmon available. One can never afford to buy any but the freshest, and these will have a bright silvery belly and flank, an iridescent purple-black back, with peach-coloured flesh that’s firm to the touch.
Salmon is now also widely farmed; but I have to confess to a firm preference for what is called ‘wild’ salmon. True, farmed salmon is less costly but it’s still expensive and I would rather buy less salmon and enjoy the incomparable flavour of the real thing.
The very best way to cook it is wrapped in buttered foil in the oven. If you are serving it cold, it can stay in the foil to cool and the skin taken off just before serving. A whole, 8 lb (3.5 kg) salmon can feed an entire party, but for a smaller number ask the fishmonger for a middle cut.
Salmon trout: With its firm but delicate pink flesh, salmon trout is said to combine all the virtues of trout and salmon. It weighs anything from 1½-4 lb (700 g-1.8 kg), and can be cooked in exactly the same way as salmon. Salmon trout should not be confused with sea trout, which is a variant of brown trout and biologically identical.
Sea trout: Migrate to sea in early spring, and return to the waters of their birth each summer thereafter.These are both oily fish – not oily in the way we use the word but they do contain a certain amount of precious substances called omega-3 fatty acids, which are said to help reduce heart disease- so much so that it is recommended that everyone eats some of this type of fish once a week.
Yes, smoked fish is expensive, but you'll find that a little goes a long way in this luxurious supper dish for two, so go on - why not treat yourself?
This is a wonderful way to cook salmon: easy and quick, giving a golden crusted outside whilst staying beautifully moist within. The lentil salsa is best made a few hours ahead to give all the flavours a chance to develop.
You can make these with any fish for a summery starter, lunch or main course on a warm day. Serve them with Toasted Sweetcorn Salsa and a large glass of chilled wine!
These lovely, light creams are best made in early summer when sorrel is in season - or grown your own if you prefer. Sorrel adds a lemony lightness to recipes and goes really well with salmon but if you can't find it, use spinach instead.
A luxurious combination, this one, and easy as pie: an indulgent supper dish for two with the mustard cutting through the richness of the salmon.
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