#439 Bavarois of Smoked Salmon

‘Why’, you may think ‘has this relatively straight-forward recipe taken me so long to get around to?’ The answer is very simple and is two-fold: it doesn’t sound that nice and it’s quite expensive to make. However, in this time of lockdown, I realised that I could buy all the ingredients for it quite easily from a local fishmonger whilst out doing my appropriately socially-distanced weekly shop, and so as a bit of procrastination I made it. The recipe is essentially smoked salmon with crème fraiche and salmon roe. It sounds very 1970s, though it may not be as old as that.

The Walnut Tree Inn (thewalnuttreeinn.com)

The recipe comes from Franco Taruschino who, at the time English Food was published, was chef at the Walnut Tree Inn at Llandewi Skirrid near Abergavenny. The place is described by Jane as “one of the nicest places to visit in the British Isles.” Today the kitchen’s head chef is the Michelin-starred Shaun Hill, another favourite of Jane’s who appears several times in English Food as well as her other tomes. In fact, he was one of the guests on the episode of the BBC’s Food Programme about Jane Grigson that Yours Truly also appeared in. Link to part 1 here and part 2 here.

This recipe serves ten, but it can be easily adapted to serve more or fewer people, which is lucky for me in these days of lockdown, as there was obviously no way I was going to be serving that many. The recipe below uses 1 ½ pounds of smoked salmon for 10 servings. I could only get hold of small packs and managed to get a third of what was required, enough to line 4 small ramekins. Anyway, multiply up or divide down as appropriate for you:

Swirl out your ramekins with water and line them with strips of salmon, making sure there is a little overhanging. Take any trimmings and place in a blender with 8 fluid ounces of crème fraiche (or half and half double and soured cream). Season with ½ teaspoon of Cayenne pepper and the juice of half a lemon. This stage was a disaster for me – because shelves were pretty bare, I could only get low fat crème fraiche (a very First World problem, I do realise) and so the whole thing was reduce to a thin liquid; blending had done away with the artificial structure given to it in the form of pectin or whatever. I attempted to remedy this by adding a couple of leaves of gelatine dissolved in a little boiling water to it, which I just got away with.

Fold through this mixture, 8 teaspoons of salted red salmon roe (or indeed any roe). Spoon into the lined ramekins, lay over the overhanging salmon, cover with cling film and place in the fridge to set (in my case overnight because of the gelatine).

Meanwhile, get on with the tomato sauce. Finely chop enough shallot to yield 2 tablespoons and fry it until golden in a little olive oil, then add 2 pounds of tomatoes that have been skinned, seeded and chopped*. Fry until the tomatoes turn pulpy, then season with salt, pepper and a teaspoon of red wine vinegar. Pass through a sieve to make a smooth sauce – you can use a hand blender first if your tomatoes do not seem pulpy enough to pass through one. Check for seasoning, remembering it will need to be slightly over-seasoned as it is served chilled. Place this in the fridge to cool down.

When ready to serve, place a couple of tablespoons of the sauce in centre of ten serving plates and gingerly release each bavarois from its ramekin onto your hand. A small palette knife came in very handy here, and it wasn’t too tricky: just don’t get hasty and shake the ramekin unless you want disaster to strike; the best things (and sometimes the worst, it seems) come to those who wait.

Place a bavarois in the centre of each circle, and scatter over some finely chopped chives to garnish.

#439 Bavarois of Smoked Salmon. This recipe seems so outdated now. I suppose it is no surprise that it is the contemporary recipes that have aged more quickly that the traditional or historical ones. Anyway, this was less horrible as expected and it all got eaten, but for the poor return it was a lot of faff and expense. Give me some good cold-smoked fish, some butter, brown bread and a wedge of lemon or blob of horseradish sauce any day of the week. Not one of her worst, but not good enough to even be average either: 3/10

*to do this, cut a cross on the underside of each tomato, place in a jug or bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Leave for 2 minutes, then fish out with a slotted spoon. The skin will come away from the flesh relatively easy if you use a good paring knife to aid you. Once removed, they can be halved and the watery centres and seeds scooped out and discarded (or popped into the vegetable trimmings stock bag in the freezer).

#250 Oeufs Mollets Christophe

Well I was hoping to do a really special 250th recipe, but due to my busy schedule I didn’t get round to it. Instead what I had to do was try and empty my freezer of as many things as possible before I left for Texas, which meant a lot of fish after my big order from The Fish Society (an excellent website, by the way). So it is quite bizarre that this little landmark recipe has to have the least English name! The ingredients are very English and despite the French name, the dish was created by an Englishman called Christopher Snow. The exciting thing about this recipe, is the inclusion of the smoked cod’s roe – quite a cheap ingredient, but tricky to find, and one I’ve never eaten before. It looked quite scary and alien-esque in its packet and I wasn’t sure about it, but it is part of the fun of this experiment. Plus none of the meat or fish has been bad thus far….

This is a very easy dish to prepare as there is hardly any cooking required at all. The recipe serves four, but it can be easily increased or decreased in ratios for any number:

Start off by boiling four large eggs; Griggers is very precise about this, so listen good. Place the eggs into already boiling water and leave for precisely six minutes (seven if they are extra large eggs). Remove and run under the cold water to cool them down. Meanwhile, cut four slices of wholemeal bread and cut them into circles, removing a smaller circle from the centre and butter them and then place them in the centre of a plate. Now prepare the roe: peel away the skin of a four ounce roe and beat the pink centre with four tablespoons of double cream until thick, this should only take thirty seconds and then season with black pepper. Peel the cool eggs and wrap a piece of smoked salmon around each one and place it in the little brown bread stand you have made. Lastly, spoon the roe sauce over the egg (this is quite tricky as it is quite thick, so I did a quenelle instead, pretty posh, eh?).


#250 Oeufs Mollets Christophe. “Occasionally when one goes out for a meal, some dish appears which is so delicious and simple that one is angry not have thought of it oneself” says the Grigson. Well I wouldn’t go that far, but it was pretty good. The eggs were cooked to perfection using her method – the yolks were still runny and creamy and complemented the smoked salmon very well (a classic combination, of course). The smoked cod’s roe was really delicious too, rich and heady with natural hot smoke, the only problem was that it was so very rich and it needed some lemon juice to cut through it, I think. That or just less of it. I think with a little alteration, this could be really excellent. 7/10.

#159 Creamed Roe Loaves

Here at Grigson Towers, we don’t like to let anything go to waste, and our tasty fishes are certainly something that should be at treated with a huge amount of respect. So do your bit by making your mackerel (or herring) go further by asking your friendly fishmonger to fish out the fishes’ roes when he guts them. After all you have paid for them anyway.

There’s quite a few roe recipes in English Food and I’ve tried them, so I thought I’d better get started. This one seemed straight-forward and is very similar (and cheaper!) to the oyster loaves recipe, so I was sort of on familiar ground. The good thing about this recipe is that you can reduce the amounts accordingly depending upon how many roes you have – in fact I only had enough to make one!

FYI: In case you didn’t know (and don’t let this put you off) the soft roe of a fish is the sperm, and therefore from a male fish. They’ve gone out of favour, with some fishmongers just throwing them away instead of selling them! Another thing we need to try and bring back, people!

Prepare 8 small rolls of bread just like for the oyster loaves. To make the filling, soften 3 shallots or 3 tablespoons of onion in butter over a low heat. Add ½ pint of double cream and cook until it thickens. Cut the roes into one centimetre cubes and place them in the cream and allow them to poach gently – this only takes a few minutes. Add parsley and chives and season with salt, black pepper and Cayenne pepper, plus a squeeze of lemon juice to cut through the creaminess. Spoon the mixture into the hollow loaves and serve immediately.

#159 Creamed Roe Loaves – 7.5/10. I really enjoyed my first foray into roe gastronomy, though a dated dish, you could modernise it easily by serving it on toast instead, or something. They are very soft and have a very delicate flavour. Try them, don’t fear the fish sperm – you’ll like the flavour and texture – and, after all, you’ll happily eat fish eggs (or bird eggs), so what’s the difference?

#99 Baked Carp

Thank goodness for Britain’s lax laws on immigration, if we were a bit more like Australia we’d have no Eastern Europeans. ‘What does this have to do with the price of fish?’ I hear you ask (at least I would if you’re from Yorkshire). Well, your average Pole has a Christmas feast on Christmas Eve or a massive 12-courser on Christmas Day, either of which involves a baked carp. There’s only one carp recipe in English Food and I assumed, like most of the freshwater fish recipes, I would have to order it in especially, or even learn to fish. (FYI: I intend to learn to fish in 2009; a new skill instead of a resolution.)But what did I spot in the fishmongers in Manchester Arndale Market? Yup, a shed-load of giant carp. Thought I’d better snap one up before Johnny Foreigner gets hold of them all. If you see one, or even catch one, try this recipe; it’s an early Nineteenth Century recipe, apparently, so it’s the kind of thing that George III would’ve eaten, and there was nothing wrong with him!

Serves at least 6…

Choose a carp weighing around 3 pounds and ask the fishmonger to scale, gut and clean the fish* (and cut the head off, if you’re squeamish about these things). When you get home wash the carp in 6 tablespoons of vinegar dissolved in 4 pints of water. (Not sure why, may be to get rid of the slime – several freshwater fish produce slime). Whilst it’s draining, select a baking dish that will fit the fish snugly (to achieve this I unfortunately had to cut the head off). Smear the bottom of the dish with 6 ounces of butter and lay the fish on top. Season with salt and pepper, and add a quarter teaspoon each of mace, nutmeg and cloves, a bouquet garni (I did parsley stalks, bay and some pared lemon rind), a generous teaspoon of anchovy sauce and a chopped onion. Top up with dry white wine, so that the carp is almost covered. Cover with foil and bake at 200ºC for 40 to 50 minutes.


When done, put it on a serving dish and strain the cooking juices into a heavy based pan. Bring to the boil and allow to reduce slightly. Mash 2 ounces of butter with a tablespoon of flour and drop knobs of the mixture gradually whilst whisking to thicken. Once thickened, season with salt and pepper, add a squeeze of lemon juice and a little cream. Pour some sauce over the carp, and serve the rest in a sauceboat.

FYI: If you’re concerned as the potential damage to stocks of carp by this sudden increase of demand, the common carp is either farmed these days, or lakes are stocked with them. In fact they are considered a bit of an evasive species, so tuck in ladies and gents.

#99 Baked Carp – 7.5/10. I really liked this dish; I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I’ve not really eaten freshwater fish much (except for salmon, which I don’t like). I was very surprised at it’s subtly fishy and oddly gamey flavour. The very English mace-laced sauce was lovely. If you get the chance to lay your hands on one over Christmas, get it bought, though I’m not sure I’d replace my turkey with it!

*If you are lucky enough to have a fish with roe inside, ask the fishmonger to keep it aside, as you can make a stuffing with it – I didn’t get any, but it’s the look of the draw. Obviously I can’t comment on it’s loveliness, but have a go and tell me about it: Start by softening a small onion in butter. Meanwhile, mix an ounce of breadcrumbs with some milk to turn them to a paste. Mix the onions in along with the chopped roe, a tablespoon of chopped green herbs, a teaspoon of grated lemon rind and ½ teaspoon of anchovy essence. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Stuff the fish with the mixture and sew it up.