#323 Salmi of Game (or Duck, or Fish)

A salmi, also known as salmis, salomine and salomene is essentially a posh game stew and is an abbreviation of salmagundi which started life in France as a meat ragoût. A salmi, rather than being any meat, should be made using game birds that are partly-cooked, and then finished off in a rich sauce made from their bones, though domesticated birds like capon and Guinea fowl are commonly used. Jane Grigson complains that more often than not, salmi is made from leftover game meat and then offered at high prices in high-end restaurants. ‘Don’t be deceived’, she says, ‘[i]t is exactly what would have been eaten by Chaucer, or his son, at the court of Henry IV, or by that granddaughter of his, Alice, Duchess of Suffolk, at her manor at Ewelme.’ Grigson mentions the food eaten at the court of Henry IV a few times in English Food: giving recipes for quince comfits and ‘a coronation doucet’.

The dish originally came from medieval France and game wasn’t necessary, as this recipe shows that Grigson found dating from 1430 that uses fish:
Salomene:
Take good wine, and good powder, and bread crumpled, and sugar and boil it together; then take trout, roach, perch, or carp, or all these together, and make them clean, and after roast them on a griddle; then hew them in gobbets [chunks]; when they be cooked, dry them in oil a little, then cast them in the bruet [the sauce] and when you dress it, take mace, cloves, cubebs, gilliflowers; and cast them on top, and serve forth.

Cubebs are a type of pepper (latin name: Piper cubeba) that you can still buy from specialists, gilliflowers are a very fragrant species of carnation and ‘powder’ refers to a mixture of ground spices.

I have been eager to cook a couple of game recipes whilst I am over in England for Christmas, and seeing as I was in London, I thought I would visit the very excellent butcher Allen’s of Mayfair – an amazing place that consists of a central circular butcher’s block surrounded by the meat hanging up around it. I felt as though I had walked into a scene from a Dickens novel. I bought a couple of mallards and used those for the salmi.

Roast your game birds rare, cut the meat from the carcass into neat ‘gobbets’.

Use the carcasses to make ¾ pint of game stock. Melt 2 ounces of butter in a pan and cook 3 chopped shallots until soft and golden. Now stir in a heaped tablespoon of flour and whisk in the hot stock a third at a time to prevent lumps forming.

Add a bouquet garni and a pared strip of orange peel (Seville oranges would be great if you can get them) and simmer for 20 minutes, to make a thick sauce. Pass the sauce through a sieve and add ¼ pint of red or white wine and 4 ounces of mushrooms that have been fried in butter. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Simmer for a further 5 minutes, then add the game and simmer very gently again for 10 more minutes. Add a little cayenne pepper. Serve with orange wedges and croûtons fried in butter.

#323 Salmi of Game (or Duck, or Fish). I must admit that I was a little worried about eating mallard – the last time I cooked them it was pretty grim (see here). I needn’t have worried though, it seems that the previous mallards had been overhung because this salmi of mallard was delicious. The meat was beautifully tender and surprisingly mild in its gaminess considering how dark the flesh was. The sauce too was wonderfully rich and silky. Plus the inclusion of orange wedges for squeezing was inspired. Tres bon! 9/10.

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