Today I’m wishing a very Happy Birthday (or Bon Anniversaire) to Scottish salmon, which was the first fish, and the first non-French product to obtain Label Rouge accreditation twenty-five years ago.
Label Rouge is a quality mark awarded to products which demonstrate superior quality particularly in the taste of the product. In fact, it’s the only official mark which actually stipulates requirements on taste characteristics. Provenance and production conditions are taken seriously and the waters of the Highlands and Islands provide a unique environment – sheltered sea lochs, crisp air and cool clean tidal waters all contribute to the firm flesh and delicate flavour of salmon. In addition, and identifying gill tag is attached to each salmon, ensuring each fish can be traced to the exact site of farming.
I was delighted that the Scottish Salmon Producers’ organisation invited me to take part in their twenty-fifth celebration of this Label Rouge award. Salmon (in any form) is one of my very favourite foods. As well as being absolutely delicious, there are loads of health benefits that have been identified by eating this fish rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids which include
- maintains a healthy heart
- reduces blood pressure
- assists brain and vision development
- maintains healthy skin
To celebrate this auld alliance between Scotland and France, I was invited to create a French recipe which uses Scottish salmon approved with the Label Rouge quality mark.
There was lots to think about. It’s not as simple as saying that there are common characteristics of French cooking, as differences vary from region to region, and I also wanted to avoid endorsing the classic French stereotypes of garlic and snails! I also wanted to share a recipe that anyone could do without having to buy obscure expensive ingredients (maybe that’s the honorary Scot coming out there – not that I’m endorsing that stereotype of course :-)) or to do anything too elaborate which would take anything away from showcasing the salmon’s flavour.
This all led me to share a method which we use regularly, which the French call ‘en Papillote’ (translates as ‘Salmon in foil’). This method of oven-steaming salmon fillets alongside vegetables, herbs and other ingredients inside a pouch is a low effort way of impressing guests, and one that easily side-steps the problem of easily overcooking your salmon fillets.
My recipe uses simple and inexpensive ingredients which allow the salmon flavours to shine through.
I’ve served my salmon with boiled baby potatoes rolled in fresh parsley, green salad leaves and some homemade Dijon mayonnaise (which I based on this recipe from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall)
- 4 salmon fillets (weighing between 150-200g each)
- 1 onion
- 1 lemon
- Sea Salt and black pepper, to season
- 4 rectangles of baking paper or foil (at least 7×11 inches each or big enough to wrap around your fillet)
- Oven-proof dish
- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees (180degrees in a fan-assisted oven/Gas Mark 4) and set your shelf to the middle of the oven.
- On a chopping board, peel and cut your onion in half. Then, slice the onion halves thinly. Slice your lemon into thin rounds.
- In your oven dish, lay one of your baking paper rectangles flat and use some of the onion and lemon slices in the middle, then lay your salmon fillet on top.
- Season with sea salt and black pepper, and pull the sides of the baking paper up to create a pouch. Secure by folding a crease in the paper.
- Cook in the oven for 20 minutes, checking that it is a pale pink all the way through. Serve with your choice of accompanying vegetables or salad.