Friday, 28 February 2014

Salmon in aspic à la Russe

There are literally hundreds of recipes for fish in aspic in the Russian cuisine, made of all kinds of fish and with different ingredients. I have consulted a few of my Russian cook books, and then proceeded to make my own version. I needed to clear space in the freezer and it was time to cook the salmon heads I bought just after Christmas for less than a pound (thinking of making the fish stock).

Salmon in aspic à la Russe
2 salmon heads (about 900g)
150g salmon fillet
1 onion
1 carrot
1 lemon
peppercorn, bay leaves, cloves
a handful of fresh coriander (or parsley)
1 sachet of Dr Oetker gelatine
a handful of pomegranate seeds
1/2tsp Schwartz Perfect Shake Fish herb & spice blend

First prepare the fish stock, which will be the base for the aspic. Place two salmon heads in a big pan with 1 onion and 1 peeled carrot. Add all the spices and salt. Pour enough water to cover the fish. Cook for about an hour. Discard the onion (this is one of the foods that makes me gag, a boiled onion. I like the flavour in soups, but cannot eat the onion itself). Cook the salmon fillet in the same pan for the last 10 minutes, just put it on top of the heads, sprinkle with Schwartz herb & spice blend, cover the pan with the lid. Squeeze at least half a lemon into the stock.
In a measuring jug, add 100ml of hot boiling fish stock and pour the contents of Dr Oetker gelatine pouch in, stir well until all the gelatine is dissolved. Add more fish stock, to make 500ml of liquid.
Take a jelly mould or a big oval dish. Scatter the pomegranate seeds on the bottom and carefully pour some of the stock, about 1cm in height. Slice the carrot into little circles and add a few in the mould. You might cut flower or star shapes with the mini-cutters, if you like.
Place the mould in the fridge for about 15 minutes. Once the jelly starts to set, take the dish/mould out.
Flake the salmon fillet. Open the salmon heads, remove the skin and bones, use the flesh bits including the cheeks (not sure of that's the right term). Place about 1/3 of all fish in the mould, add some thin lemon slices, more coriander and carrot stars. Pour the stock with gelatine over. Place the mould in the fridge.

Once starting to set, repeat until all the fish and stock is used.
The fish will be set in a couple of hours, but best left to set for a few hours. Let's say, cook it all before lunch to have for dinner. The result was quite pretty, very delicate and tasty

Now the fish stock I prepared was not as clear as I wanted it to be. I think if you strain it through a clean muslin it might get clearer. Salmon is quite a fatty fish, so the stock was very rich.

Whenever I cook the fish soup or stock, I mentally salute to my great grandma Alexandra.
She worked as a cook in the baron's household before the Revolution of 1917, and used to say that when they prepared the fish stock, they cleared it by throwing a handful of caviar in the pot for a few minutes, which seemed to do the trick. The caviar sort of coagulated all the bits together. Then the caviar was discarded.

Great grandma Alexandra

I am not in the same profligate category like the cooks of the old days, and don't have spare caviar anyway.

I was also trying to find an old photo of my parents, sitting in the garden, with a big bucket of freshly caught fish and cleaning it for whatever dish they were cooking. In that photo they were just newlyweds and looked so happy in each other's company. I searched high and low for a copy of the photo but couldn't find it (I really should ask my Mum to make a copy). My Dad was an avid fisherman, and whenever we visited our family in the south, he used to go fishing.
The smell of the freshly cooked fish is forever associated in my mind with my childhood, and long summer days, when my Mum cooked the tasty dishes in the open-air summer kitchen.

Fish in aspic is not a dish they used to cook often, it was mostly reserved for celebrations like New Year's eve, 8th of March and other Soviet holidays. It brings back memories of many a party, with lots of friends and a table groaning under the weight of different platters of food.
This recipe is special for me, as it binds together my past and present.

As my foodie blogger friend Chris from Cooking Around the World has been "visiting" Russia this month, I am adding this recipe to his linky.

This post is an entry into the Foodies100/Schwartz Flavour of Together challenge.

If you have your own flavour story to share, visit Schwartz page.


  1. Thank you, Galina for entering Bloggers Around the World. Honestly, I would have been quite disappointed, had you not. You have some nice colours going on there. I especially like the pomegranate seeds in it. Now I have to admit, I have never tried such a thing as something in aspic before. In fact, when I was much younger, I wasn't quite fond of it. However, now that I have seen, how to make it, that changes everything. So I have to try it one day.

    1. I planned to take part, of course, Chris, but with all the reviews piling up kept postponing it, until the last minute.

  2. looks like a delicious palte..
    I love salmon!
    Have a great weekend!

    1. Thank you Helena! Do you have a blog? I would love to visit it. I went to you G+ page, but as you so generously share other people's posts, I got lost and couldn't figure out if any of those posts are yours?

  3. Ooh very impressive, this would be great for a dinner party :)

  4. Beyond my culinary capabilities,but that is a lovely story/memory and I just love the technique deployed with the caviar!