Route 79 : Pan-Fried Masala Salmon

The effects of feeling hungry on the way home

April 21 2004

Pan-Fried Masala Salmon

Today we are going to cook in a slightly "fusion", slightly "gourmet" style in the Route79 kitchen. But we're not going exert ourselves too much - because, like most people, we do not make living as celebrity chefs - we have work to do, household chores, keep the kids entertained etc. So - we are going to "tend towards" slightly fusion and slightly gourmet instead.

I was browsing around our local Safeway on Sunday afternoon - just before it closed - and noticed that the prices of fresh fish seem to plummet in the closing hour. I think this has something to do with the weekly replenishment cycle being Monday to Monday? Anyway - I bought myself some fresh fillets of supposedly Scottish salmon - no bone - but with the skin intact on one side.

Scottish Salmon fillets

Now - this is the "fusion" bit: I'm not sure how salmon is traditionally cooked in Western Europe - but whenever I've cooked it before - I've usually eithe roven-baked it with some lemon, butter and herb - or else I've pan-fried with some seasoning. Well - we're going to do the latter - i.e. pan-fry the salmon - using a technique called "blackening" - which is where the frying is done on very hig heat - and the idea is to fuse the seasoning to the fish and "blacken" it - i.e. sort of like "burn" it - so that it darkens in colour and has that "barbecue"-like texture.

The seasoning we're going to use is the classic Route79 Indian spice seasoning collection (which if you've been following these recipes you will know very well by now) - and you can see these below:

Spices used in the seasoning of the salmon fillets

Not shown in the photo above is a very important first step: pour on (liberally) some olive oil into the dish with the fish pieces. Then shake on the concentrated lemon juice - plenty of it. Then simply use a teaspoon to sprinkle on some of each spice: 1 teaspoon of each, except the garam masala: use 2 teaspoons of this. When you've sprinkled on all of the spices - it should look something like in the picture above.

Now is the fun bit: using your hands - make sure that each fish piece is thoroughly coated with the spice mixture - ensuring that the powder dows not "clump" together at all - use the fish pieces to evenly mix the spice/lemon-juice/oil mixture. Then finally - place the fish pieces "face down" - i.e. skin side up and cover the dish with clingfilm. Place this in the fridge for an hour or two - that will give you plenty of time to get on with other things that you need to do.

When you come back - get a large frying pan - and pour in a few drops of olive oil - and get the flame going high to get the pan really hot. If you have an extractor fan above your hob - you should get that going on max as well. Then - when the pan is real hot - place the fish pieces in - skin-side down - and let them stay in the pan for a few minutes - sizzling away. Shake the pan horizontally slightly (but not too much) - just to ensure that the pieces don't stick and burn on the surface of the pan. It helps to use non-stick frying pan for this method.

After about 6 mins - use a spatula or tongs to carefully turn over each fish piece so that the skin-side is now up. You can see that it is beginning to look quite good now. You may reduce the heat a bit at this point - because by cooking the fish on high heat with skin-side down you have actually very gently cooked the fish right up to the top of the fish - and all you want to do now is to brown the top. However - be warned if you follow these instructions the salmon will be very tender and "just-cooked" in the middle. If you like your salmon very well done, i.e. very dry and flaky in the middle - then you may want to keep them cooking for a bit longer - or finishing off by microwaving the fish on high power for about 2 mins.

Oh - also - if you don't want to serve the salmon onto the serving plate with the skin on - you can remove the skins quite easily whilst they are finishing off frying face-down in the pan. Just grab one corner of the skin and peel it off! It will come off really easily - trust me. If you do this - then be sure to turn the fish over again to colour the other side too - but be warned: once you take the skin off - it till be really hard to handle - and you will run the danger of it all breaking up and falling apart!

And now for the attempt at the "gourmet" bit. Just before I put the salmon in the frying pan - I had prepared some Indian style basmati rice - and some thin green beans, plain-boiled and tossed afterwards in some olive oil. You may "sculpt" the rice in a small bowl if you like - turning it upside down onto the serving plate - and take a couple of pieces of the cooked salmon and place on top - or next to the rice. Then arrange the green beans in as artistic a style as you can - over the top of the fish and rice. Well - I tried anyway!

Pan-Fried Masala Salmon!


Have you tried this? Even if you haven't - let me know what you think!
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