I feel blessed that as well as being an abundant of knowledge of all things fishy, our local fishmonger is an incredible wealth of information and encouragement concerning all things culinary. This, together with a stack of Jennifer McLagans' books (check here if you aren’t familiar) where recipes are tested to perfection and work exactly as described and always with the perfect balance of flavours, it is hardly hardly surprising that we recently enjoyed a couple of scrumptious dinners using cuts that whilst fashionable in a restaurant setting, can challenge the home cook: Wine-Braised Beef Cheeks (Oddbits) and Braised Oxtail with Root Vegetables (Bone) though I have yet to make Ravioli of Brains and Morels, a dish that Jennifer expertly prepared when we were fortunate to be invited to dinner: juicy morels coated in a creamy, ricotta-like fusion; watch this space, my brains ravioli may happen soon…


A sushi discussion and the freshness of fish led to a recommendation for vac-packed loin of salmon, something that I had once sampled and though pleasant but hadn’t considered buying in preference to counter-fresh produce. Apparently sushi houses in Paris use the very same product and though not citing this as a convincing argument as there are hordes of poor quality restaurants springing up all over the city, this was a small investment that turned out to be well worth trying.


Skinless, boneless, evenly shaped, this thick cut was packaged within hours of harvest; its texture is excellent, flavour mild and offers a super hygienic option for uncooked salmon in Japanese dishes but equally, for Carpaccio or Tartare. The difference between the latter? Very little in that they both are both raw meat dishes which nowadays stretches to include fish, fruit and vegetables but their origins have different stories to tell: Carpaccio is an Italian dish that was invented in Venice during the 1950’s, named after the Venitian painter Vittore Carpaccio and popularised by Guiseppe Ciprani, the founder of Harry’s Bar; slices of wafer thin raw meat, fish or vegetable that are served with rocket leaves, lemon juice, olive oil and shavings of Parmesan whilst Tartare is the French counterpart with its roots in ground beef, Steak à l’ Americaine. Today’s modern version of Steak Tartare is a stack of minced beef accompanied by an egg yolk, chopped onion and capers and is a popular bistro dish and though its exact format differs between restaurants, the version served with tartare sauce appears to have disappeared.

Sushi wasn’t to be but instead a rather lovely starter from December’s Olive magazine: Smoky Salmon Tartare with Lemon and Capers, 4 good servings:

Soak 1 finely diced shallot in the juice of 1 lemon to remove astringency; leave to soak for ½ hour or so. Add a tablespoon of Dijon (mild) mustard and crème fraîche, mixing well. To this, add couple of tablespoons of capers and chopped dill. Finely dice 150g pack of salmon loin (or central fillet) and 200g smoked salmon and add to the crème mixture along with a pinch of salt and black pepper to taste. The mixture should be fairly firm as it is best served in neat rounds but add a little more crème if necessary. This is delicious served with sour dough or rye bread but fresh baguette works well too.