Monday, June 1, 2009

Of salmon and pumpkin pasta, Delia's fish pie and some gifts

One of the best things about food blogging is the people that you "meet" online. Many food bloggers are thoughtful and generous people, and I have had some wonderful experiences in my time as a food blogger, whether it be through an encouraging or insightful comment or a random act of kindness.

Twelve months ago, to say thanks for a simple jar of silver cachous that I sent to her, Laurie of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska sent me the terrific whole smoked salmon pictured at the top of this post. Laurie posts wonderful recipes inspired by her Greek heritage and the fresh produce available around her home in Anchorage, so do go and check out her site.

This salmon, from Alaska Jacks in Anchorage, has since done another journey up the east coast of Australia from Melbourne to Brisbane. The salmon comes vacuum packed in foil, and according to the box, lasts for years unopened.

I had never seen anything like this salmon before, and I have no idea if you can buy it here. Accordingly, I was almost in awe of this gift, and held onto it waiting for "a special occasion".

That special occasion never came, and I figured that after twelve months, I should bite the bullet and make something with the salmon. It was quite large (450g), so this weekend just past, I made two different salmon dishes.

The first dish that I made was a smoked salmon, prawn and pumpkin pasta, for which you can find the recipe here on Rawfish.

The smoky flavour of the salmon mixes with the sweetness of the pumpkin and snow peas, and the ingredients are offset by a cream sauce.

I hadn't realised that the smoked salmon used here was different to the type that was in my box until I opened it, but ultimately, I don't think it mattered. This pasta tasted good, although I have to admit that I am not a cream sauce pasta girl. However, I noticed that a lot of recipes for smoked salmon pasta involve a cream sauce, so I assume that the cream is a good foil for the salmon.

The next dish that I made was Delia Smith's Luxury Smoked Fish Pie from
Delia's How To Cook Book Two. I was recently fortunate enough to acquire the entire set of Delia's How To Cook books as remainder stock for just under AUD$60 - this is a bargain when you consider that these books retail in Australia for $75 each.

You don't have to buy Delia's book to get the recipe - it is online

The pie contains smoked fish, cornichons (baby gherkins), egg and capers in a parsley white sauce:

which is subsequently topped with cheesy mashed potato. Here is a peek inside the pie:

I made quite a few changes to Delia's recipe, primarily because the fish that she uses are not available in Australia (or at least, not readily). I replaced the haddock, kippers and smokies with 450g of smoked South African cod, and I upped the quantity of smoked salmon to 300g. I used low fat milk instead of whole milk, light cooking cream instead of ordinary single cream, and margarine instead of butter, all with the aim of reducing the saturated fat content. In preparing the potatoes, I boiled them instead of steaming them, mixed them with a quarter of a cup or so of low fat milk instead of creme fraiche, and topped them with grated low fat cheese instead of parmesan and gruyere. I have no idea how Delia whipped the potatoes using her electric hand held mixer - my poor little hand held mixer became gummed up with mashed potato like glue after just a few whirs.

The white sauce involves making a roux, one of my arch enemies in the cooking world, but I was very excited when the sauce worked out. I had a few anxious moments in the beginning, as I thought that the dough-like substance in the saucepan would never become anything else, but after some perserverance, the white sauce came together beautifully.

Initially, I was worried that I would not like this pie, because it had a peculiar smell that did not appeal to me pre-baking. However, after it had finished cooking, the flavours melded and the overwhelming fishy odour had dispersed. In fact, I really enjoyed this pie - so much so that I would make it again. I figure that the entire pie could be made using smoked cod, which is easier and cheaper to obtain in Australia than the other types of fish in the recipe. In this case, I was lucky that Laurie had provided me with such a wonderful gift in the form of the whole smoked salmon.

A huge hug and thanks to Laurie for introducing me to a number of entirely new foodie experiences through her generous gift.

Through Blogging by Mail, organised by Stephanie of
Dispensing Happiness, I met wonderful Maryann of Finding La Dolce Vita. As you can guess from the name of her blog, Maryann is of Italian heritage, and makes delicious Italian dishes and shares slices of Italian life and humour.

Maryann recently sent me this lovely "Make a Wish" necklace and some handy handbag-size nail files as a surprise thank you gift for sending her the Italian edition of Delicious magazine:

Thanks Maryann! (Sorry I couldn't get a better photo - the flash and the lens on my basic camera were limiting factors.)

As I surf around the blogosphere, I often read of acts of generosity, kindness and friendship between food bloggers, not to mention many warm and encouraging comments. I love reading these stories and comments, and I am proud to be part of such a terrific and inspiring group of people.

Mrs Slocombe
published an opinion article about blogging in The Age in March 2008, which he has reproduced on his blog here, where he states

Tonight is Saturday night. A perfect night to stay in. You might run into a friend from 30 years ago, or make a new one. Just sit quietly in your room and go out into the world.

Go on, do yourself a favour. Venture out into the blogosphere tonight - you never know what friends you might meet.


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What an amazing gift! All the way from Alaska too :) A fish pie is a great way to use it too. Nothing better in the cold weather!

Mary said...

Well lucky you recieving such a precious gift and making a lovely fish pie so tasty !

The Caked Crusader said...

What a wonderful gift and nice to see that you put if to such good use!

Finla said...

The pasta dish looks so yumm.
Yeah i too think bt bloggin one has gained a lot of good friends.

Cakelaw said...

Hi Lorraine, I have been pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this pie.

Thanks Mary - it is great to try new things.

Thanks Crusader - it is a great find.

Hi Happy Cook, yes, blogging has been a fantastic way to meet others with the same interests.

Susan @ SGCC said...

Wow! Both dishes look lovely! I just brought back some fresh smoked salmon from Seattle and have been looking for some different ways to use it. If you still have any left, try crumbling some in scrambled eggs with scallions and a little sour cream. My favorite Sunday breakfast! :)

♥Rosie♥ said...

How lovely it has put a smile on my face to know we have such wonderful kind people in blogging that touch our lives.

Beautiful fish pie and a gorgeous pasta dish.

natalia said...

You are right I love meeting so many friends !!! Great pasta !!

The Blonde Duck said...

I loved smoked salmon. What a cool gift!

Cakelaw said...

Hi Susan, the scrambled eggs idea sounds fantastic - I like scrambled eggs as is, so this could only make them even more delicious.

Hi Rosie, agreed. Thanks!

Hi Natalia, it is absolutely the best thing about blogging.

Hi Duckie, agreed!