Smoked salmon is definitely a delicacy. It’s relatively expensive which isn’t ideal because I can easily sit down and eat an entire packet in one go. The trick with smoked salmon is making it go further and putting it into a risotto is a fantastic way to flavour a large amount of food without needing too much of the fish itself.
Smoking food became popular as a good way of preserving it. Upping the salt content and decreasing the moisture makes it very hard for bacteria to grow in the food helping it keep longer before spoiling. The process of smoking food has probably been around since humans evolved. Food would be stored off the ground to keep it away from pests but the lack of ventilation in the dwellings led to the build up of smoke at the top of the houses – where the food was stored – and thus the food was smoked. Once people realised that smoked foods lasted far longer than those which were unsmoked, smoking became a widely used preservation method. As it was functional rather than for flavour, large amounts of salt were used to draw out the moisture and the smoking time was often days long. As infrastructure improved, food could be stored in fridges and cold houses. As a result, the quantity of smoke and salt used to preserve foods declined leading to what we have today.
There are several different methods of smoking; the most common types being hot and cold smoking. The process of cold smoking does not cook the meat and because of that, brining and curing must be done before the food is smoked. This is what gives us the classic smoked salmon that you see in a supermarket, thinly sliced and still a bright pink colour. In contrast to this, hot smoking cooks the fish. This means that the food is safe to eat without further cooking as may sometimes be necessary with cold smoking.
The first time I tried this recipe, I was having dinner at a friend’s house and we ended up cooking together. I must admit I was a bit dubious as the idea of placing smoked salmon into a hot saucepan of rice worried me greatly; surely the salmon would just go hard and leathery and lose its flavour? That is the beauty of this recipe. If done right, the latent heat in the risotto should cook the chopped salmon just enough to change its colour whilst still allowing it to remain soft. The remaining salmon is served on top of the risotto keeping it from the heat and therefore preventing it cooking.
This dish really is a treat so I hope you enjoy it.
Smoked Salmon Risotto
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Cost per portion: around £2.40
1 small onion finely diced
1 clove of garlic minced
175g risotto rice (I like to use Arborio risotto rice)
750ml vegetable stock
Zest of one lemon
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp chopped parsley
100g smoked salmon
1 tbsp oil
Sautee the onion in the oil for five minutes until it starts to soften and goes translucent.
Add the garlic and rice and fry for another minute.
Pour in half of the stock and stir everything together. Wait for the rice to absorb the stock stirring regularly.
Once the stock is all absorbed, add half of the remaining liquid and stir it through.
Repeat with the remaining stock.
If the rice isn’t fully cooked at this point, add another tablespoon of water and continue to cook over a medium heat stirring regularly to ensure that all the rice is cooked evenly.
Once the rice is almost cooked through, add the mascarpone, lemon juice, zest and the parsley and stir through. Cook for another minute.
Remove the risotto from the heat and cover.
Chop about three quarters of the smoked salmon into small pieces.
Stir these through the risotto, the remaining heat should cook the salmon but not make it leathery.
Serve the risotto immediately and top with the remaining salmon.
If you so wish, garnish the risotto with parsley and lemon zest.
I hope you enjoyed this recipe. It’s a luxurious meal yet still quite light and doesn’t leave you feeling bloated. If you fancy a bit of a more fiery dinner, check out how to make my spicy enchiladas or if you are looking for something a little sweeter, why not make a carrot cake? It’s big, moist and packed full of flavour.
Have a good one and I will be back next week with a slightly more basic recipe for some delicious biscuits!