What about smoked salmon?

"it is almost guaranteed that at some point this Christmas, you will eat smoked salmon." Tony Naylor - The Guardian


We always have some smoked salmon in the fridge. David eats it with salad on the days I am fasting. And it's always useful for unexpected visitors - not that there have been any of those for some time as we all know. However, now I am feeling a bit the same way about smoked salmon as I do about salmon. That is, I shall probably go on eating it, but maybe not quite as often. With the smoked version I should probably stick to the smoked trout instead. Actually I think smoked trout is a little more versatile than smoked salmon anyway. Smoked salmon is sometimes a little bit salty. And today, just to make me feel even worse about all this I read that you really need to pay attention to the Use by Date on smoked salmon because it has been linked to lysteria. So David if you are reading this, it's a false economy to buy large packets of it.


At Christmas it has actually become a family tradition to have home-made gravlax as part of our first course. Not that this should make me feel any better about it, because I still have to buy the salmon. Maybe this year I shall look out for New Zealand King salmon, because apparently that does have the coveted accreditation. I do love making it though, because it's so simple and so, so, satisfying.


Anyway let's put aside all the controversy, and boy is there a lot of very vitriolic stuff out there, and concentrate on what to do with smoked salmon, other than just eat it raw as part of one of those platters I talked about the other day. And if you can only get farmed smoked salmon, and you have never tasted the classy wild smoked salmon, then don't worry - about the taste I mean - not the ethical problems. Ignorance is bliss as far as taste is concerned.


I really must acknowledge Tony Naylor of The Guardian here and his wonderful article on How to Eat Smoked Salmon, beginning with one of his introductory paragraphs:


"Quality-wise, it is a very mixed bag: fast-growing, farmed fish are often unimpressively flabby and oily, and – in a significant number of cases – smoked in a way that delivers, not balanced flavours, but aggressive blows of salt, spice and smoke. Luckily, there are worse things to be hit by and, while such smoked salmon is more letdown than luxury if eaten on its own, it is still a useful ingredient – used almost as intense seasoning. Even terrible smoked salmon can make itself useful in a paté or quiche. Like culinary Polyfilla, eggs and cream cheese can smooth over many cracks." Tony Naylor


I suspect there's not much difference in quality between the big three Tasmanian producers. Although the stuff we have in the fridge at the moment is not even Australian, because David bought it because it was a bargain. It's Norwegian, smoked in Denmark and definitely has no accreditation. No ticks of any kind. Anyway because of all this ethical angst I am going to make an asparagus and smoked salmon quiche tonight for dinner. The picture is an example of the many you can find on the net. It's from the Recipe Tin Eats lady. I shall be making up my own. I was heartened to see that Tony Naylor thought that quiche was "A strong contender for ideal smoked salmon receptacle" so at least I feel good about that.


He was not as polite about pasta though:


"Do we have to? Really? Marginally overcooked pasta plus invariable creamy sauce and smoked salmon: that’s three layers of slippery, which is at least two too many. Moreover smoked salmon pasta encourages people to lazily throw in peas, asparagus, green beans, spinach, tomatoes et al." Tony Naylor


I cringed to read this because that's exactly what I do sometimes. Ditto for risotto, although, interestingly he did not mention risotto. This one, with asparagus is from Best Recipes. It's one of hundreds, so obviously the world at large does not agree with him. And I'm not sure I do either. Everyone has a recipe for smoked salmon and pasta it seems.


He is a little bit more forgiving about dips and pâtés and pastes, because as he says:


"smoked salmon is frequently improved – its flavour developed, rounded and extended over several more servings – if mechanically pulsed into an indistinguishable paté ... You are literally putting stuff in a food processor and pressing “Go” here. Any idiot can do it. Many do. Dill. Lemon juice. Soft cheese. Creme fraiche. Maybe horseradish. Whirring motors. Flashing blades. Done." Tony Naylor


Yes indeed - the food processor is a wonderful thing.


And then there is perhaps the most classic use of smoked salmon - apart from the blinis of course - Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and this gorgeous looking version is from Jamie Oliver, who does the right thing according to Tony Naylor by just serving the scrambled eggs with the smoked salmon rather than cooking it with the eggs. I'm not sure what the right procedure is with an omelette, but it would have to be similar I think.


Sandwiches, salads, endless variations on the canapé theme, even soup, which I think must be an American thing. I also saw a recipe for kedgeree somewhere, sushi, rice paper rolls. The list goes on and on. It's a very versatile ingredient, and I am going to have fun using up all that salmon in the unopened packet.


You can also smoke your own of course. and The Spruce Eats will show you how to do it without an actual smoker. Basically you smoke it over wood chips in a wok covered very tightly with aluminium foil. I have to say I think I would rather do it in a bucket like Jamie outdoors, or maybe in a Weber - also outdoors. It talks about heating up the wood chips over very high heat in your wok - or whatever other pan you are using, which somehow sounds a little dangerous.


Or you can cheat even more and use something called liquid smoke - yes it was an ingredient in this recipe from Food Republic. And my first reaction was 'only in America' - or a barbecue shop, but I just looked and you can indeed get liquid smoke from Coles, so probably Woolworths too. They have an original flavour and also a Chipotle flavoured one. It really doesn't sound wonderful but I have to say the end product shown here looks pretty good. But then, this being an American site I think, they may have access to better salmon.


But again, this won't make you feel any better, because you are still dealing with the original farmed fish. The real downer about this is that I thought I was being nobly patriotic buying Tasmanian farmed salmon, and that farming fish was so much better than overfishing the oceans with nets that trapped other marine life, and was left floating around the world's oceans. It's all so depressing really - what has our generation done to the world? And what on earth can you do that doesn't get knocked by someone?


Personally I think that the Tasmanian salmon farmers will finally get themselves into a position where they will get accreditation for being sustainable and ethical. The fertiliser option sounds promising, ditto not using other fish to feed the salmon, and surely they are learning as they go along. We have to feed the world's populations somehow and farming fish is surely one way to do it. Fish, especially salmon is amazingly good for us. There are just teething problems and we have to work our way through it with the best scientific advice on offer. Mind you they should have learnt those lessons by now if they started as far back as the 80s. Gone are the days when food producers can just do what they like. The animal welfare, and environmentalist lobbies are now just too well organised and make too much noise to ignore. There are very few pro salmon farming articles on the net. It is almost all very strident criticism. I cannot believe that the companies involved can just carry on regardless.


In the meantime I'm just going to look forward to my quiche and try not to worry about it much. Which, of course, is an awful thing to say.


POSTSCRIPT ON YESTERDAY

Coles apparently now has imported wild caught salmon from John West. I don't know whether this is sold as a frozen product or a chilled one. I must check it out. Mind you, you would have to be feeling very extravagant. This 230 gram pack will set you back $13.50 - that's $58.70 a kilo! Which is still less than the £6 you will pay in the UK for 100g of 'genuine' smoked salmon. It might be worth giving the John West Alaskan salmon a go some day when you are feeling down and need something special to lift your spirits. I suppose whether it tastes better or not is marginally irrelevant, considering all the bad stuff they say about farmed salmon.


The logo to look out for for farmed fish is this one and currently none of the fish farms in Macquarie Harbour have it. That includes all the big three Tasmanian salmon fish farmers. I believe that they are all three working with the certification body - The Marine Stewardship Council - which is an international institution - and other involved bodies, to improve their practises. The MSC seemed to think it was possible that one day they will get it.


If you can find it, New Zealand King Salmon is accredited.


And whilst we are still on accreditation - when you are buying fish generally look for this logo. Mind you I noticed one product - I can't remember which now, had the fish symbol and Sustainably Sourced above that, but not the MSC. Which seems a bit suss to me. Check out the MSC - Sustainable seafood guide website for more information. So yes we should be careful about what fish we eat, but, for example, farmed barramundi is Ok.


And finally - I forgot to mention that Andrew Forrest also has an eye on Huon Salmon, although so far has not bid as much as the Brazilians. However, he is lobbying the government to block the Brazilian deal I believe, citing their bad record on animal welfare. I can't find anything later than August on this battle, so don't know who won or is winning. Twiggy Forrest wants to stop the Macquarie Harbour operations and move them further offshore. I bet somebody will find something to complain about that.


Oh and I forgot to mention that the Norwegians and the Chileans are the top farmed salmon farmers in terms of quantity anyway - I haven't looked into whether their product is any good. Australia - i.e. Tassal is just in the top ten individual producers.

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