Yesterday was the Pet Finn’s birthday, and I’d offered him a birthday dinner anywhere he wanted, but he asked me to cook for him, and said that the meal must have salmon and potatoes, his favourite things.
The salmon part was easy to fix, keeping it Nordic with a little inspiration from the fantastic meal I had at Juuri in Helsinki, with some gin infused gravilohi (gravadlax), horseradish cream, lemon zest, and a light dressing made from gin, lemon juice and some bronze fennel oil that I made after a raid on my mum’s garden. A much lighter and more summery take than the beetroot, gin and grapefruit version I made with celeriac remoulade as part of our Christmas feast.
Next up was octopus on a salad of heirloom tomatoes with rings of quick pickled red onions. This was something of a bonus round because I spotted the octopus at the fishmongers and have a real problem saying no to octopus, any time I see it on a menu, guaranteed I will be ordering it! Cooked with white wine, bronze fennel, lemon and peppercorns until tender and then finished in a cast iron grill pan. The tomatoes were perfect, all bringing different flavour and texture to the salad, dressed with lemon and more of the bronze fennel oil.
For the main event I’d hoped to make fish with creamy chanterelle sauce, but the dry conditions caused by the Nordic heatwave haven’t been great for growing the chanterelles (or wild berries for that matter) so they’ve been quite scarce. Instead I spotted these king oyster mushrooms, which were a more than worthy and delicious substitute. And a great partner for these stunning pieces of hake that I spied at the fishmongers. Simply pan fried and served with a sauce made from the mushroom offcuts, shallot, a bit of dill, a glass of white wine and about the same of double cream, reduced down and blended. And of course the potato, just good new potatoes cooked and tossed lightly in some more of that bronze fennel oil.
And here’s what happened to the offcuts of salmon that didn’t make it into the gravilohi… lohikeitto / laxsoppa / salmon soup, because waste not want not or something along those lines. Floury potatoes, lots of dill, I used lactose free milk, some double cream and a couple of tricks up my sleeve. A little white wine, some (gluten free) English mustard, and more of the bronze fennel oil. The amaranth sprouts on top add a little earthiness to the soup which is usually served with rye bread (oh how I miss you, you gluteny old devil, rye bread), amaranth being a regular in my try-rye flour mix, they’re more than just a pretty addition! I did feel a little sorry for our Finnish guests for dinner that night, straight off the plane from Helsinki and they get served up their national dish. No complaints though, just demands for the recipe!
That bronze fennel oil is sneaking into most of my cooking at the moment, almost like a condiment… and very easy to make, just extra virgin olive oil, not the best quality ever, but a little grassiness works well with the fennel flavour, left for about a month to infuse with the fronds and stalks from a raid on the bronze fennel bush/plant at my mum’s farm. I made some fennel vodka too which seems to be vanishing at an even faster rate. Same principle, just with about a tablespoon of sugar added, a little taste of summer, somewhere in the vein of Mallorcan Hierbas. For me the very smell of this plant takes me back to childhood summers on holiday on tiny Greek islands, the smell of sunshine, so I will be gathering some more next time we head up to the farm to keep some sunshine in mind long after the good weather gives up on us!
Cheers! Kippis! Enjoy your weekend, and sorry for no meaningful recipes, this meal was cooked while very hungry after a day of drinking with Finns!