Salmon Tartare

I find this recipe a delight because it’s such a modern-sounding dish, yet it is about 350 years old.

It comes from one of my favourite manuscripts at The Wellcome Library, MS3009, owned initially by Elizabeth Jacob, which has been dated to 1654-c.1685.

Intriguingly, I also found it in a second, anonymous manuscript, MS8097, dating more generally to the 17th and 18th centuries.

Usually, when I find recipe duplication such as this, it suggests that the recipes have been copied from a common third source or possibly from each other, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Whilst the recipes are broadly similar, they are also slightly different to each other: oil and olives in one, no oil and the addition of marjoram in the other.

Firstly, Elizabeth Jacob’s version, which at some subsequent date has incurred the wrath of a later owner and been severely crossed out. Nevertheless, it is still legible:

ejsalmon
MS3009, Wellcome Library Collection

And the second recipe:

anonsalmon
MS8097, Wellcome Library Collection

I have been unable to find anything in print even remotely similar to these recipes, in any century, quite part from limiting it to the seventeenth century. Most hashes that I found tended to involve either baking or poaching in their execution.

With the two manuscripts being acquired independently and over 70 years apart, there is little chance of a connectionbetween them and precious little biographical or geographical background details to pursue.

So the origins of these two variations are destined to forever remain an enigma.

A curious, but delicious, enigma.

SalmonTartareB.JPG
Hash of Fresh Salmon with black olives

Hash of Fresh Salmon

Mid 17th Century

I’ve opted for Elizabeth Jacob’s version, with the olives, and substituted pickled cockles for the oysters. If you’re not a fan of olives, why not try the other versionwith marjoram and the oil-less dressing?

Serves 4 as a starter

200g skinless fresh salmon fillet
8 olives – bright green Castelvetrano are eye-catching, black olives for contrast
1 x 155g jar pickled cockles
4 spring onions
3-4 sprigs curly-leaf parsley
zest of 1 lemon
1-2 tbs of a light vinegar, lemon juice or cockle pickle liquid
3-4 tbs salad oil
salt and pepper to taste

4 slices wholemeal toast

dill sprigs and lemon slices to garnish

  • Wrap the salmon in cling film and freeze for about 30 minutes until firm. This will help to slice it evenly.
  • When chilled, cut into 1cm slices. Remove any skin or blemishes, then dice into 1cm cubes. Be sure to use a sharp knife and try to keep the cuts as clean as possible. Put the prepared salmon into a bowl.
  • Cut the olives into 5mm dice and add to the salmon. Discard the stones.
  • Shred the white parts of the spring onions very finely and add 2 tbs to the salmon.
  • Strip the parsley from the stalks and chop finely. Add 4tbs to the salmon.
  • Drain the cockles, reserving the liquid, and add 4tbs to the salmon.
  • Grate the zest of half the lemon into the salmon.
  • Toss the salmon ingredients together gently.
  • Mix 1tbs vinegar or cockle pickle with 2tbs of oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour the dressing over the salmon mixture and fold through.
  • Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary. Add more onion/olives/cockles/parsley/zest if liked.
  • To serve:
    • Use a baking ring or round pastry cutter to cut out a circle of toast.
    • Divide the salmon mixture into four and pile one portion on top of the toast. Flatten the surface.
    • Transfer to the serving plate and remove the ring by pressing down onto the top of the salmon.Grate a little lemon zest on top of the tartare.
    • Garnish with lemon slices and sprigs of fresh dill.
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