A slice or two of good quality smoked salmon is a pleasure to eat. A plateful of finely sliced smoked salmon, garnished with a little salad, and accompanied by a few slices of good bread and butter is always a simple and elegant starter.
The tradition of smoking salmon originated in the early twentieth century in London, with Jewish settlers from Eastern Europe using fish-smoking techniques on prime, wild Scottish salmon, found on sale in London markets. Traditional smoked salmon is made by ‘cold smoking’ – that is curing the salmon in cool smoke, away from a direct heat source – a technique that requires skill and knowledge.
For decades smoked salmon made from seasonally-caught wild salmon was a very expensive luxury. The rise of salmon farming in the 1970, however, made smoked salmon a more affordable food. Nowadays, hot smoked salmon, made by cooking the salmon in the smoke near the heat source, is becoming increasingly available.
Most smoked salmon is made from farmed salmon. Because of its high cost, only a handful of smokeries, among them veterans Forman & Field
, smoke wild salmon.
Choosing smoked salmon
It’s worth sampling a range to see what you like. The flavour will vary, with some smokeries opting for a ‘heavy’ smoke, while others prefer a lighter, subtler smoky flavour.
Another factor that affects flavour is the freshness of the smoked salmon. It might sound odd but even though smoked salmon is a preserved food with keeping qualities, it really does taste better the more freshly it has been smoked.
Reputable smokeries pride themselves on smoking freshly on-demand so that their product reaches the shops as quickly as possible after smoking. As I always say, taste is a very subjective matter. Choose a smoked salmon that you enjoy.
Using Smoked Salmon
As well as simply eating it straight, smoked salmon is a versatile ingredient which you can use in a number of different ways.
Both hot-smoked salmon and cold-smoked salmon are great in pasta sauces:
• Simply fry a little shallot gently in olive oil
• Mix in the flaked smoked salmon
• Add in a splash of dry white wine or a squeeze of lemon juice
• Then add a little double cream or low-fat crème fraiche
• Sprinkle with some chopped parsley or chives
• Toss with pasta for an easy meal
For a party canape or first course, make my simple Smoked Salmon Pate or – for a very special breakfast – make that classic combination of scrambled eggs with smoked salmon.