In a fit of exuberance, I went to the wet market at Tiong Bahru this Saturday morning and bought a whole salmon (above) to bake for a lunch party that very same day.
Mistake #1: not checking whether or not all my guests ate salmon (one didn’t).
Mistake #2: not ordering my salmon in advance, as the few stall holders that did sell them whole, generally had nothing smaller than a 6kg fish. In the end – as for some reason I was not prepared to deviate from my plan to cook a whole one – I settled for one weighing in at 4kg which was the smallest I could find.
The recipe I was planning to following sounded easy enough: “Stuff fish with spring onions and lemon. Loosely fold fish in foil and bake for about an hour.” How simple yet brilliant; it sounded positively changmoh-proof.
However, owing to my fish being of whale-sized proportions (it only just fitted in the oven), the rather manageable sounding one hour’s cooking time stretched to about two hours; probably because I never stopped opening the door to check it – which as well as slowing down the cooking time, earned me the added bonus of a fishy facial steam. Overcooked salmon is criminal, but equally, I hate it when it’s very under done and would much rather just go out for sushi.
Although he didn’t die in vain, I am just sorry for how I made him look:
My cucumber slices were far too small (damn those skinny telegraphic cucumbers from Cold Storage). I could have been clever and cut them on the slant, but I didn’t think of that. I also regret tarting him up with fronds of dill that made him look like he’d squeezed into the sort of lacy shirt men wore in 18th century pre-revolutionary France.
He would have been much more splendid if I had just kept his head and tail on and left it at that. Naked, so to speak. Oh well….next time.
The real hero of the day though was the accompanying watercress sauce that had a very homemade mayo vibe to it but took just three minutes to make. It is this recipe that I want to share below, as well as my mother’s one for delicious no-potato fishcakes, which is what I have spent my morning making with Mr Salmon’s uneaten remains.
WATERCRESS SAUCE – great with any fish
-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
-200g watercress leaves (big bits of stalk removed)
-40g fresh tarragon (about 3-4 packets of the fresh stuff from Cold Storage. I was too mean to buy that many so just used one packet and a good sprinkling of dried tarragon) finely chopped
-300g mayonnaise (Hellmann’s or equivalent)
-2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
-salt and pepper
Put the chopped garlic, chopped tarragon, watercress, mayonnaise and lemon juice in to the Magimix/blender/processor and mix.
Melt the butter (the recipe says to use unsalted but if you are adding salt and pepper anyway I can’t see the point) then add to the watercress mixture a little at a time, processing until all the butter has been incorporated and the sauce is thick and smooth.
Cover and chill before serving.
Be warned, this makes masses – enough for about ten people, so halve/quarter the recipe as needed.
Taken from The Jewish Heritage Cookbook by Marlena Spieler
CHANGMAMA’S NO-POTATO SALMON FISHCAKES
-Cooked (whether baked or poached) salmon or other fish
-Fresh herb(s) such as dill, chives and/or English parsley (not Chinese parsley which is what I call fresh coriander)
-Brown bread that is either old or toasted; grated into breadcrumbs
For the thick white sauce:
-Flour and butter in more or less equal quantities, but with a dash more butter than flour
-Salt and pepper
Flake the cooked fish in to chunks. Don’t make the chunks too small or your cakes will be too mushy.
Add chopped herbs to the fish, followed by a handful or so of breadcrumbs.
Add cooled thick white sauce (see below).
Mix everything together with your hands before shaping in to patties.
Fishcakes can now be frozen or, if you are going to cook them, dusted with a sprinkling of flour and pan fried in splash of olive oil.
To make the white sauce:
I love making a white sauce. It’s easy when you know how and its glossy creaminess seems to go with most things.
I don’t have any precise measurements but just remember, the amount of flour you add generally denotes the amount of white sauce you will end up with. Try to keep the quantities of flour and butter almost equal but use a shade more butter which will stop it sticking and/or getting lumpy, so ensuring victory.
-Melt butter in pan over a low heat.
-Add four to butter, stirring all the time until it has formed a roux.
-Add the milk a splash at a time, waiting until the sauce has absorbed it before adding the next installment. It will then, gradually, start to thin without lumps appearing. Do not answer the telephone or do anything else except STIR and keep adding milk, as required, depending on the thickness of the sauce you want. Once the contents of your saucepan has boiled, you are safe and can add more milk, in larger quantities, as necessary.
As this fishcake recipe calls for a white sauce to bind everything together, do not be too generous with the milk as you want to keep it fairly thick and gloopy. Set aside and add to the fish once cooled.