Saturday, August 6

Wild Scottish Salmon Paella

If necessary I can be frugal (tight bastard some might say).   My local fishmonger on the Gloucester Road had rather extravagantly bought in a whole wild Scottish salmon.   I'm not sure I have ever eaten wild UK salmon - Alaskan for sure - and fearing they may soon be extinct I had to cook some (oh come's not baby dolphin!).   This is an expensive piece of fish so I bought two of the thinnest steaks or 'darnes' of salmon you have ever seen,  I swear I could see daylight through them.      Cooking options were limited for fear of the steaks breaking up so I opted for this paella style rice dish.   The plan was to poach/steam the fish fillets in the rice a few minutes from the end of cooking -  the final result was awesome.

A couple of paella tips to share with you: Paella is not a risotto, you want loose single grains of rice, not a creamy starchy mass.   You must use bomba or calasparra rice, nothing else will really do but at a push I have had OK results with short grain rice.    To prevent the paella getting claggy, you should only stir the rice once at the beginning of cooking to distribute the ingredients.   After this, only a little shake of the pan is necessary as long as you regulate the heat to ensure a slow simmer.   Lastly a paella pan is a nice authentic toy to have, but is not essential.    Any wide shallow pan or cazuela will do but make sure your paella is not too deep - 2cm is about right.    For 2:

Thin Salmon steaks - 2x100g
Calasparra or Bomba Rice - approx 150g
Chicken or Veg Stock (a cube is OK) - approx 500ml
Onion, peeled and finely chopped - 1 small
Pepper, seeded and finely chopped - 1/2 red and 1/2 yellow
Garlic, peeled and chopped - 2 fat cloves
Olive Oil - 50ml
Tomato, peeled, seeded and finely diced - 1 large
Turmeric - 1/2 tsp
Smoked Paprika - 1 heaped tsp
Peas, frozen is fine - 1 handful
Lemon wedges
Parsley, chopped - 1 small packet
Salt and Pepper

With all paellas you first have to make a 'sofrito' which means fry the onions and garlic until soft in the olive oil, then add the tomato and cook until it begins to break down.    Add the turmeric and paprika and fry for a few seconds.   Add the rice and toss in the sofrito until well coated.    Add the peppers and enough stock to just cover the rice.   Season well and stir about for the LAST time to evenly distribute the ingredients.     Simmer gently until the rice begins to look dry (approx 10 mins).    Taste - is it cooked?    Probably not, so ladle some more stock over and don't stir.    Continue cooking, tasting and adding stock until the rice is just underdone and has a little crunch but is mostly soft (maybe 20 mins).    I appreciate this must all feel very unscientific but the amount of cooking and stock required will depend on how hard or dry the rice - keep tasting and adjusting using small quantities of stock and you will be fine!

Now scatter over the peas and squash the fish fillets into the rice.   Add a little more stock if required and cover with baking parchment and turn the heat right down.    The steam and heat in the pan should cook the fish in approx 5 to 8 mins.    If the fish flakes when gently prodded with a knife, then it is cooked.     Scatter over the parsley and lemon wedges and serve.

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