JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Monday, May 26, 2008

George Perry-Smith's salmon with ginger and currants

This is an adaptation of an old English recipe, made famous by the Bath restaurateur George Perry-Smith, who ran The Hole in the Wall there in the 1950s and 60s. A friend of ours used to work there, but that's not how I know this recipe; I associate it with Lucius's cousin Sarah, London caterer extraordinaire, who often featured it on her party menus.

If you think that currant and ginger paste sounds like an odd mixture, even odder served with salmon, all I can do is urge you to give it a go .... it's a rich tradition, reminiscent of a Moroccan bastilla, a Sicilian pasta con sarde. It's one of those useful dishes that are good hot or cold; the paste also makes up for any shortcomings in the fish, unfashionable though it is to admit that you buy farmed salmon (Shetland is best).

My recipe came from Simply the Best, by Tamasin Day-Lewis, although I see from a quick Google that she's recycled it into several of her books. She wouldn't be pleased that I'm not using wild salmon, and I feel childishly pleased at defying her bossy strictures because, although she's a terrific writer and cook, she brings out the worst in me, and I'm not alone: here's Barking Kitten on Tamasin.

My main changes related, as always, to saturates. So I didn't use a butter-rich shortcrust, I used olive oil pastry. And I made the ginger and currant paste with a little almond oil rather than butter. The paste was fine, I didn't miss the butter, indeed I preferred the cleaner taste you get when you omit butter. The olive oil pastry tasted fine, as it always does, but compromised the look of the thing, because olive oil pastry is best arranged in a swag-bag style, rather like a gigantic shu-mei dimsum. It was just that I didn't quite work that out in time, and tried to make it as if I was using shortcrust, making a seam underneath and decorating with cut-outs in the shape of fishes. None of that worked, as you see.

Salmon baked in pastry with currants and ginger

for 3 or 4

500g fillet of salmon
1 quantity of olive oil pastry
3 globes of ginger in syrup
25g currants
a little oil

Start by making the olive oil pastry - there's no doubt it behaves better when it has rested for an hour or more. You'll need 150g plain flour, a pinch of salt, 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, and up to 125 ml iced water; full instructions are here. If you're in a hurry, you could try using shaken hot water pastry, which doesn't need resting, and which is a traditional French recipe for butterless pastry.

Heat the oven to 220C / Gas 7 / 425F

Make a paste of ginger and currants, adding a little oil if necessary. I did this with a mortar in a pestle, it didn't take long as the ginger is squidgily soft. Spread this on the salmon, then wrap it in pastry.

Bake for half an hour.

Sarah's version of this uses a whole filleted salmon, the paste underneath. Tamasin's version uses two 500g fillets (for 6) sandwiched with the paste. She also serves it with Sauce Messine, a green cream and egg yolk concoction. We had a little salsa verde, with less anchovy than usual.

Links to other fish recipes

Monkfish with ginger and saffron
Anchovy garlic and caper sauce
Baked scallops
Haddock and prawn stew with saffron


gillie said...

Should Stuart manage to catch anything this year I'll give this a go. I remember the Hole in the Wall, it was always a big treat to go there as it was always accompanied by my father's accounts of previous more riotous visits and the accompanying yomps through the wine list. It all seemed so terribly glamourous and grown up!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Most unusual but also sounds good. Look good to even if you didn't get your fish shapes. Really nice touch with the little flowers.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

I know the combo with the fruit and ginger works - but I haven't had it with the pastry as well. Sounds great to me!

Sophie said...

I'm glad you posted about this Joanna. I've seen incarnations of this recipe a few times now and it always intrigues me, but then I forget to try it. Have bookmarked it this time as it appeals even more without all of the saturated fat in there!