Salmon and Mediterranean Potato Mash

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Food photography has always been my thing. Not in a professional way, obviously, but over the years I often documented meals when we traveled. Then I would get home post-vacation and wonder why in the world I was keeping photos of meals I’d enjoyed, and get rid of them, especially in the pre-digital era.

What I’ve missed out on are not beautiful photos of pretty or unique meals, but the inspiration that these meals can offer. And memories as well.

Case in point, in 2012 my husband and I landed in Edinborough before beginning a magical 3-week trip around Scotland. That first night, in Edinborough, we chose a restaurant after I’d perused many menus, and this was my dinner.

It was grilled salmon over an lovely mash of potatoes served over pesto. It was exquisite. Somehow, even though this photo is terrible, I kept it.

If you haven’t been to Scotland, it’s everything and more than you expect. The scenery, the people, the history, the food. The seafood!

So there’s nothing especially unique about this meal, but it’s fabulous!

Salmon with Mediterranean-Inspired Potato Mash and Pesto Sauce
Serves 2

2 medium peeled starchy potatoes
4 ounces butter, cut into four pieces
1/4 cup heavy cream, or more if necessary
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt
Pepper
1 1/2 ounces chopped Kalamata olives, or to taste
1 ounce chopped sun-dried tomatoes, or to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 uniform filets of salmon
Salt
Garlic pepper or pepper
2 ounces pesto
2 ounces milk

Cut each potato into somewhat uniform pieces and place in boiling salted water to cook. When tender, drain in a colander, then immediately place in a large bowl. Add the butter and let melt. Then stir in the cream, garlic, salt and pepper, and mash the potato mixture. Add more cream if the mixture is stiff. Cover and set aside. (I used a very good garlic and herb butter.)

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the 2 filets and cook until some good browning occurs. Turn the filets over and reduce the heat to allow cooking on the other side. Cover the skillet with a lid to ensure that the salmon cooks though. Remove the skin from the filets while they’re in the skillet so you can season both sides with salt and pepper and brown under the skin. Keep warm.

To prepare the sauce simply mix the pesto with milk until the sauce is smooth.

To serve, divide the sauce on each of 2 plates. Using a ring mold, form 2 cylinders of potato mash and place each on the sauce.

Place the salmon filets to the side.

If desired, top with fresh chopped parsley and/or basil.

The combination is just wonderful!

You can place an amount of pesto on the plate and warm it, instead of the creamy pesto sauce. It’s whatever you prefer.

Cranachan

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The three weeks my husband and I toured the circumference of Scotland were a pure delight. I knew Scotland would be pretty, but I had no idea the vast geographic extremes that exist in this country, from the highlands to the lochs to the granitic islands off the northern coast.

This post is about a Scottish recipe, but I wanted to share a few photos from our trip. If you’re never thought about seeing Scotland, you might consider adding it to your list!

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During our trip, we stopped in at Talisker, a distillery on the Isle of Skye, took the very interesting tour, and tasted their Scotch whisky.

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I am not a fan of scotch, but I had to drink it because that’s my rule. That’s why I tried banana beer in Rwanda. (never again!)

You only get about an ounce, understandably, for your whisky sample. But instead of pouring it down my throat like a shot, I probably took 100 sips of the stuff, which prolonged the pain and agony. But I finished it! It had a really smoky flavor from the peat used in the scotch making process.

So I bring up Scotland and scotch because this recipe, Cranachan, which I have no idea how to pronounce, is a Scottish recipe and it contains scotch whisky. Irish whiskey, by the way, has an “e” in it!

I picked up this little cookery pamphlet at a tourist stop, I think at Culloden, one of the famous battle sites in Scotland. Just walking around there will bring tears to your eyes. So much blood shed over the centuries.

On a brighter note, this recipe, from the smallest cookbook ever printed, at 28 pages, intrigued me because of its simplicity. The recipe is not terribly unique, since it’s whipped cream and raspberries, but there are two Scottish additions – scotch whisky and pinhead oatmeal! So I really wanted to try it. The cookbook author’s version of cranachan is pictured on the front cover of the cookbook.

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I should mention that the food in Scotland was superb. I mostly had seafood, some I’d heard of like salmon, and others I hadn’t ever experienced, like sea bream. All of it was fresh out of the sea, since Scotland is practically an island. And yes, I had haggis and blood pudding. I’m not scared of that kind of thing, but they were made traditionally, so they were very bland. Someone needs to make gourmet versions and they might be way more popular!

I also had to have cullen skink, which is a seafood soup, and also a clootie dumpling, which was a dense cake. How can you pass up names like that?!!!

Scottish oatmeal, or porridge as it’s often called, is a staple in Scotland. If you want it for breakfast at your hotel in the morning, you must order it the night before. I assume it’s because the oatmeal is soaked all night before cooking. Scottish oatmeal is not the light and fluffy quick-cooking stuff we get in the US. It’s not even thick-sliced oats. It’s pinhead oats, which are more like pieces of the whole oats, which require longer cooking time.

If you want Scottish oats, make sure that you see a photo on the canister or box, otherwise you may not get the correct variety of oats. Even steel-cut oats can be flakes. Here is the recipe as it appears in the cookbook.

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Cranachan

60 ml/4 tablespoons pinhead oatmeal
280 ml/10 fl ounce/1 1/4 cup double (heavy) cream
30 ml/2 tablespoons whisky
About 45 ml/3 tablespoons liquid honey
250 g/8 ounces raspberries

1. Put the oatmeal in a small, dry frying pan and toast it over gentle heat for 20-30 minutes, shaking the pan from time to time, until the oatmeal is lightly browned.

I first sieved the oatmeal to remove any fine powder, then toasted it in a skillet over moderate heat, which only took about 6-7 minutes.

Then I placed the toasted oatmeal on a plate to cool.

2. Meanwhile, whip the cream until it is thick but not stiff. Add the whisky, and honey to taste.

I first mixed together the honey, which I warmed slightly, along with the whisky, then made the whipped cream. You can see me pouring the mixture into the whipped cream, before adding the raspberries.

3. Reserve a few of the best raspberries for decoration and fold the rest gently into the cream.

4. Spoon the mixture into 4 glasses and chill until you are ready to serve.

5. Just before serving, sprinkle the toasted oatmeal on top of the cream and decorate with the reserved raspberries.

verdict: I have to say, I was first skeptical about a few things. First, I wasn’t sure how well whisky and honey could be folded into whipped cream, but it does. Secondly, I thought the whisky would be off-putting, but along with the honey and the raspberries, it was truly delightful! Thirdly, I wasn’t sure what the oats would do for the dessert, but it works!!! Just a nice little crunch!