It’s a savoury recipe! We all know what that means. Winter, or as it shall henceforth be known, the ‘anti-food-blogging season’, is over, and with its welcome departure come lengthy summer evenings, with the sun still high enough in the sky to guarantee reasonable photo opportunities for one’s dinner. People often ask me why I chose to move to Denmark, and although my usual response is a raised eyebrow and the simple statement ‘er, they offered me money’, I think I might now answer by pointing out the excellent food photography conditions provided by the languid, almost never-ending Scandinavian twilight.
So, avid readers, the drought is over. I know it’s been terrible being forced to pore over cake after cake, sweet bread after sweet bread, crumble after crumble, because these are the only things that will keep well enough to be photographed during the sparse winter daylight, but rescue is at hand. Admittedly I have a very handsome cake recipe due to go live on the blog next week, but for now let’s revel in salt and salmon.
Although I have lots of sweet treats up my sleeve using this month’s frankly delectable box of Bluebird Tea delights, I decided to branch out into savoury tea cooking. One of the best ways to add the flavour of tea to savoury food is to poach meat, fish and even vegetables in a tea-infused broth, which keeps them lusciously moist and adds a subtle fragrance. I’ve experimented with poaching salmon in both matcha and regular green tea before, but I thought Bluebird’s Ginger Beer summer blend – an excellent cold brew option – would form an interesting base for a Japanese-inspired dish.
This revitalising blend of rooibos, ginger, lime leaves, lemon peel and calendula petals has a spicy, earthy fragrance with the refreshing tang of citrus, particularly the musky astringency of lime leaves. All these ingredients work wonderfully with salmon; the rooibos gives a slightly earthy, caramel note, while the ginger and citrus freshen everything up and counteract the rich oily fish. This is essentially a tea-infused take on a teriyaki sauce: the tea broth is flavoured with shredded ginger, peppercorns, sake, sugar and soy, irresistibly gingery but with that moreish, savoury soy note so beloved of Japanese cuisine. The salmon simmers very gently in this aromatic mixture until just cooked through, and the flesh stays wonderfully moist, permeated with a subtle sweet-savoury ginger flavour. Reducing the broth down after the salmon cooks concentrates the flavours into a dark, sticky-sweet teriyaki-style sauce, perfect for pouring over the fish.
You could, of course, use another ginger tea (although I’d obviously recommend Bluebird’s, especially because it also makes an excellent summer cold brew with a squeeze of lime), or even just plain water with the other aromatics. You can also serve the salmon with whatever Japanese-style toppings take your fancy, although I’d say some boiled or steamed rice (preferably sushi rice) is mandatory to soak up all that delicious poaching liquor. I coupled mine with some ginger miso leeks which I (genuinely) happened to have in the fridge from another day, lashings of sesame seeds and some shredded shiso leaves for that Japanese taste, but I also think this would work beautifully with some sliced avocado, cucumber and edamame beans. You could also add some pickled sushi ginger for a triple ginger hit. Consider this an almost blank canvas; the salmon is the star, but you can add your own supporting acts.
The beauty of this dish is that it tastes incredibly complex, a real labour of love, but takes approximately fifteen minutes to make. The salmon takes on the flavours of the tea beautifully, flaking into perfect melt-in-the-mouth pieces. It has that irresistible Japanese punch of flavours but with a slightly unusual twist from the flavoursome tea, and you will find yourself scooping up every last morsel from the plate, I promise.
My first savoury recipe in a very long time, and I don’t think I could have picked a more savoury, umami-filled delight. I hope it was worth the wait.
Salmon poached in ginger tea (serves 2):
- 2 fresh salmon fillets, skin on or off
- 1 heaped tbsp Bluebird Ginger Beer tea, or other ginger tea
- Half a lime
- Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, very finely shredded
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- ½ tbsp. caster sugar
- 1 tbsp sake
- Generous pinch of salt
- To serve: cooked sushi rice, sesame seeds, strips of nori seaweed, shredded shiso leaf, pickled sushi ginger, sliced avocado, boiled edamame beans, quick-pickled cucumber, steamed miso leeks (or your favourite combination of these)
Put the tea in a large measuring jug and pour over 500ml boiling water. Leave to steep for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, juice the lime into a large saucepan, then shred the lime skin with a sharp knife and add that too. Add the ginger, peppercorns, soy, sugar, sake and salt. When the tea is ready, strain it through a sieve into the pan.
Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. Add the salmon fillets, skin side up if you’re using skin-on fillets – the liquid should just about cover them; add a little more hot water to top up the pan if not. Ensure the liquid is at a very gentle simmer – just a couple of bubbles – then leave the salmon to simmer for around 8 minutes. If you have a temperature probe you can use it to check for doneness, or just flake a little of the salmon with a spoon.
When the salmon is ready, set it aside on a plate. Bring the poaching liquid to the boil and reduce by about half, to concentrate the flavour. Serve the salmon alongside cooked sushi rice and your choice of toppings, with the poaching liquor poured over.