Smoked Salmon, Cucumber Pickle & Brown Soda Bread

Did someone mention smoked salmon?? Oh, that’s right – I did! On Sunday and on flickr last week. Shall I let you in on a secret? I’ve discovered that Selfridge’s (in Oxford St, London) have started selling Frank Hederman’s smoked salmon from the Belvelly Smokehouse in Cork. Haven’t they always done that? Well, yes but now, it’s available not only at the Oyster and Champagne Bar as a dish, but, by the side and fillet at the, well, smoked salmon counter.

It’s not cheap, but I’ve been staying with friends for a bit and wanted to leave with a splash (decadent, moi?). Besides, it’s worth every penny and more. The texture is supple and firm with a delicate flavour and a beautiful smoky aftertaste from the beechwood chips. There’s a wonderful quote from the NY Times – Mr. Hederman smokes fish, which is a little like saying Steinway makes pianos. It’s just wonderful.

We know, I hear you roar! I blogged it when I had it in Selfridge’s last year and I mentioned it recently while in Ireland. I saw the man himself when I visited Midleton Farmer’s Market in Cork and I very much look forward to my next trip so that I can sample his smoked mackerel and smoked eel.

So, what to do with this beautiful smoked wild salmon? I prefer to keep it simple and let the smoked salmon sing. A simple accompaniment of good brown bread and cucumber pickle is all it needs – no cheeses, no cream, just the salmon, smoked with such care and attention.

The recipe for each is very straight-forward, there are more complex recipes with more delicate and elaborate flavours, but my quick, simple recipe was given to me by a friend that was a chef and it works for me. I love cucumber pickle, I love the sharp, tartness and intense sweetness of the pickle, it makes my mouth tingle, and in a very good way. As for soda bread, I grew up with it, and it’s something that I should make more often. I prefer a wholemeal soda bread, some people do half wholemeal/half white or white, but for me it’s wholemeal all the way.

This will make a large jar of cucumber pickle and a small loaf of bread. Soda bread is quite dense so it goes a long way.

Pickled Cucumber

Ingredients:

1 cucumber – thinly sliced using a knife or a mandoline, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of white wine vinegar

Method:

Heat the vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Taste and adjust the flavours accordingly. Mine wasn’t tart enough so I added a tablespoon more vinegar.

Add the cucumber and refrigerate for 24 hours. It’s ready and will keep for ages, although the green of the cucumber will fade after 3 days. If you plan on keeping it for a bit it might be best to peel the cucumber before pickling.

Brown Soda Bread:

Ingredients:

500g wholemeal flour

100g oatmeal

450ml buttermilk

1tsp salt

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

25g butter

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celcius.

Add the butter to the dry ingredients and blend in with your fingers.

Add the buttermilk and mix.

Turn out onto a floured baking tray and create a round about 8in in diameter (note: I made a loaf as I wanted to try a new loaf tin, but this is not traditional). Cut a deep cross in the bread.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. The bread will be cooked when, if turned upside down and tapped, it sounds hollow.

Cool on a wire tray and cover with a dry clean tea towel.

A very irish way of baking bread, I know ;-)

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Niamh

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