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Cooking Salmon - A Healthy Option

Updated on May 1, 2011


When cooking Salmon; a healthy option that is always a good choice when it comes to preparing menus, try to always time it well, so that it is eaten very freshly cooked.

Salmon is a very healthy, very tasty fish, which can be cooked in a variety of ways, without losing any of its nutritional value. Always a healthy option when planning menus, here I'll explain some of salmon's nutritional benefits, as well as some of my favourite recipes.

Salmon is an excellent source of protein, and omega-3 fats. These fats are essential to our diet, as they are not produced naturally by the body, from other fat types.

Omega-3 is known to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well is playing a big part towards a healthy heart. It also helps in reducing the risk of diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis and other diseases.

Recent studies show it's helpful in protecting against alzheimer's, and keeping an agile mind.

Salmon also contains essential minerals like iodine and selenium.

Is cooking salmon a healthy option? Without a doubt.

Salt Baked Salmon

A healthy option
A healthy option

Cooking Salmon

There are many ways to cook salmon, and you can cook it whole, or filleted and cut into steaks. The key thing to remember, is not to overcook, as you will end up with a very dry fish, and destroy a lot of its nutrition.

To Cook a whole Salmon

The best ways are either in the oven, or on the barbecue.

A new popular way to cook fish is on a woodplank, an item copied from native American methods.

These can be bought at a kitchen supply shop. The filleted whole or half fish is based on the woodplank, skin side down, on the barbecue or in the oven, thus producing a unique oakey, lightly smoky flavour, and preserving all the juiciness of the fish.

On the barbecue, the full Salmon, with its skin on, can be cooked one of several ways:

You can place herbs (Rosemary, basil, chunks of onion and garlic, slices of lemon) inside the fish, and place the fish directly on the barbecue, turning over halfway through. ( Although this method may be messy, as it's very difficult to turn a halfway cooked fish without it breaking up.)

A much easier way, is to put everything inside a tin foil package. (Also referred to as ' in papillote')

I would suggest you use a double piece of foil, for extra strength.

Make an 'envelope' big enough to hold the fish. Close two sides firmly, by folding a couple of times tightly, leaving one end and one side open. You can stuff the fish with herbs as above, or place the herbs into the package first, and lie the fish on top.

You can add either a little olive oil, or a small amount of white wine, or both. Or leave the fish to cook just in its own steam.

Seal the other two sides firmly, and place on the barbecue. This obviously is a lot easier to turn over at the halfway stage. If you're cooking only half a fish, place it skin side down, on top of the herbs, and don't turn over.

To oven cook, the 'papillote' method can be used in exactly the same way as on the barbecue.

You may own a salmon kettle, a special device for cooking Salmon in the oven. This is a covered stainless steel dish, with an extra false bottom inside. This false bottom has holes or grooves. You would add water, or even wine, to the base of this kettle, whilst placing the fish on the grooved surface above. This whole thing is placed inside the oven.

If you don't have this kettle, the foil method is as good, in fact in my opinion, much better.

Cooking smaller pieces of salmon

Once again, the salmon can be cooked in the foil packages, obviously taking a lot less time.

One of my favourite ways to cook salmon fillets, is to poach, either on the top burner, or in the oven, depending on the quantity being cooked.

Here's one I'm very fond of, which is also extremely healthy.

Salmon with Spinach & Garlic

Take 2 to 4 salmon fillets (I prefer centre cuts) more than four is too many for top burners.

Fresh or frozen spinach, fresh garlic.

If using frozen spinach, defrost first in the microwave.

Take a frying pan or wide bottomed saucepan with a lid.

And a few drops of olive oil to the pan, then the garlic. According to your own taste, you can use the garlic one of two ways; a couple of whole cloves, which can be removed later on, or finely chopped to stay in the dish.

In the case of whole cloves, cook gently, without browning. Add frozen spinach once cloves of garlic are tenderised, or immediately with chopped garlic.

Add about half a pint of water or white wine, or a mixture of both, and bring to the boil. Leave to simmer for five minutes.

If using fresh spinach, add now. (Needs very little cooking)

If you don't want to eat the garlic, remove the cloves now too.

Place the fish skin side down on top of the spinach. Sprinkle a light coating of salt over fish and spinach, cover with a lid, and cook on medium heat for approximately 10 minutes. The fish will poach in the steam above, while the vegetable cooks below.

Check once or twice to make sure the liquid hasn't boiled away, if so replenish.

When cooking larger quantities, place in a roasting dish, and cover with a lid or tinfoil. Frozen spinach should be boiled for five minutes first, or can be tough.

Delicious, tender, and very nutritious!

You can adjust this recipe to your own taste, using other vegetables and herbs, cover them with liquid, and place the salmon on top 10 minutes before the vegetables are fully cooked.

Another of my own personal favourites, is the following:

Salmon in Cream and Leek Sauce

Take some fresh leeks, clean and slice, either discs or Julienne.

Blanche gently in either olive oil or butter, according to taste.Olive oil obviously the healthier option.

Blanche very gently, not allowing them to brown. Once they are tender, cover them with water. Add a little salt, and bring to the boil. Place the salmon fillets skin side down on the leeks. Cover with a lid or tinfoil, and cook gently until the fish is cooked. Keep some boiling water at hand, and replenish as necessary, so it doesn't boil dry, but keeping levels low so that the fish doesn't 'boil', but poach gently.

Once the fish is cooked, remove from the pan. To the water and leek mixture (there should be minimum water left anyway) add cream. For two fillets, about a cupful of single cream, or less of double cream. Cook quickly until it reduces and thickens. A healthy option to cream, would be cream cheese (Philadelphia style) or thick yoghurt or fromage frais.

Single cream will need simmering a little longer to achieve the right consistency, but once the the creamy leek sauce is ready, you can return the salmon to the sauce, if you want it to absorb the flavour, or pour the sauce over the fish on the plate. Another alternative is to serve the sauce separately in a boat.

This can also be done in the oven, in a covered roasting dish, but once the fish is cooked, the adding of cream and preparing of sauce must be done on the stovetop.

For an extra touch, especially for dinner parties, I often add a few small clams. Cleaned and prepared clams should be added when the salmon is halfway cooked, as they don't take long.

Serve with a couple slices of boiled potato, or plain rice, I prefer basmati.

Salt Baked Salmon

Another way to cook salmon without any flavourings or sauces, is to coat it completely in salt; slightly dampened salt is pressed around the outsides of the fish, until it is completely sealed in. Then baked in the oven. When you remove it from the oven, you take away all the salt, and the fish is cooked to perfection, without any oils or fats, and surprisingly never absorbs too much salt flavour.

I think most importantly, whichever way you cook your salmon, remember to never overcook. Slightly undercooked, pink and juicy is much better than overcooked, crunchy and dry.

I hope you'll find these recipes helpful, and enjoy them as much as I do. Accompanied by fresh vegetables, and some white rice, delicious!

Salmon is one of my favourite foods, cooked plainly or gourmet style, and always a healthy option.

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