Fishing for condiments
There were members of my second group of jolly fishermen and women (‘fisherpersons’ is probably the PC way forward here) who have been making their 7 hour trip north to the River Findhorn in the Highlands for over 60 years. Their secret to a successful week of fishing is to stop off on the way and throw a wee dram in the river and obviously have one themselves. Does it work…?
Well on return to the lodge a victory toot would be sounded if bringing back a salmon. There were 8 that week – one of them signaling the catch of a magnificent 11 lb. salmon, so the whisky clearly did its magic.
Having done the week enough times the group had a slick routine and knew a thing or two about fishing. One of the founding members of the group told me how they always took all their salmon home frozen and my face must have dramatically fell as he came back later that night after a roast pork dinner with,
“The group wondered if you would like to cook one of the salmon for us?”
“Yes !” I said, probably too quickly.
As per my mantra I cooked the wild salmon simply, pan fried achieving a crispy skin and served with some herby mustard lentils and roasted fennel. The guests loved it and all piled into the kitchen afterwards agreeing that fresh salmon (as supposed to have having it frozen then defrosted) really was spectacular.
They then enquired if I myself fished. Teasingly, I mumbled something about not really being sure if trying to stand in a chilly fast flowing river where I may or may not catch a salmon or even old trout was my idea of an entertaining day.
Their jaws dropped and then they lurched into lyrical enthusiastic speeches about the joys of fishing (that got them to bite like a trout on a mayfly I giggled to myself). Within minutes I admitted I was won over and could see by their love and their energy for the subject that it was indeed a sport of skill and even thrill.
You have to read the river, the weather and what you think the salmon might be up to that day all while abiding by certain etiquette.
Some types of hooks, like sharp spinners, and all live bait are banned as are deemed unsporting. Once you have chosen the appropriate fly there is the casting bit where you throw your line onto the river trying to gently place it so it sweeps across the river near to where you think a salmon may be lurking. This is done hundreds of times a day and takes many a year to master.
If you are lucky / skilled enough to get a salmon to bite you then have to ‘play’ it, which means attempting to keep it on your line whilst battling the river and the fish until one of you gives up. This can last around 15 minutes or more. If you are planning on returning the fish, remembering there is a 70 % return policy to keep stocks healthy, you must think about where to land the fish (grassy banks are much less harmful than stony areas) and that ideally you will use a net to bring it in.
The thrill naturally is the achievement of bringing one back which I can easily see the appeal in. There really is nothing like the taste of the firm orangey pink flesh of a wild salmon. Though if you want to try one yourself, as it is illegal to buy the Wild Scottish river caught ones, it means if you have befriend a successful fisherman, or go try it for yourself.
Every home should have: a selection of tweed caps
Instagram ‘Likes’ results for cute puppies vs. tofu: 89% landslide victory for …puppies (Instagram phollowphilippa).
I’m driving: a Land Rover Defender (which has a fun GI Jane effect).
Breakfast bacon eaten: 233 rashers
I learnt : Fishing is fun.
I’m obsessed with :cardamom
I’m reading : Tatler
You should read: my Battle of Waterloo inspired recipes in The Field magazine.
After these few weeks of seeing lots of salmon I still stand firm and believe when cooking it do as little possible. So for this postcard recipe I will give you the recipe for fresh horseradish sauce, which makes and excellent condiment with simple pan-fried salmon and of course a slab of roast beef!
200ml double cream
1 tsp. Dijon
1 tsp. sugar
Juice from ½ lemon
1 tbs. white wine vinegar
Sprinkle of salt
100 – 300g of horseradish
Fresh horseradish can vary greatly in heat, use the graph below to see how much to use (though probably best is the taste test).
|Crying after (Minutes)||Horseradish (g)|
|7 +||The whole stick|
Lightly whip the cream.
Stir in the yogurt, Dijon, sugar, lemon juice, white wine vinegar and salt.
Peel the dark skin from the horseradish then finely grate.
Add immediately to the cream mixture and stir.
Taste to check balance.
It is worth leaving for 20 mins. and then tasting, as the flavours will develop.
Serve with beef or best of all a piece of wild salmon.
It was certainly an exciting few weeks and I confess the geek like excitement of getting to cook wild salmon next to the river it was caught on has still not worn of. Now, having had more than my share of fresh air, I have packed my bags and am headed for the fair city of Dublin…