Traditionally, a whole salmon is gently poached in a little fish stock or water in a fish kettle or a large roasting tin. This retains moisture as well as adding flavour to the fish when cooking. When poaching a whole salmon, it is important to start with cold liquid as if the liquid is warm, the outside of the fish will be overcooked.
An alternative method of cooking salmon whole is in a salt crust as Galton Blackiston suggests in his Snowed-under salmon recipe. Whichever way you cook salmon whole, make sure it has been gutted, with gills and scales removed prior to cooking.
Like most other fish, salmon fillets can be grilled, baked, poached, pan-fried or cooked en papillote. The simplest method for cooking salmon is to sprinkle a bit of salt, pepper and olive oil over the fish and then bake in the oven. But to be more creative, try home smoking, using a water bath or serving it cured or raw. Remember to pin bone the salmon fillets before cooking.
A whole poached salmon is a classic buffet dish, especially when served with minted new potatoes, watercress salad and some mayonnaise. Salmon can also be encased in pastry for salmon-en-croute or in the Russian fish pie, coulibiac.
Beetroot is a great partner for salmon – the contrast of salty, oleaginous fish and earthily sweet beetroot proving that, in this case, opposites do attract. Try Luke Holder’s Salmon mi-cuit with beetroot or Marcello Tully’s recipe for cured salmon with beetroot.