Ingredient of the Week: Salmon
Salmon is considered to be good brain food because of it’s high levels of omega-3. It is a hugely popular fish all across the world and can be enjoyed for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. There are many different varieties found in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and all of them are as nutritious and good to eat. It can be served raw, cooked or smoked, hot or cold, and can be bought fresh, canned, or frozen. I like to buy it fresh as a large side of salmon when it is on special offer and slice it up in to my own portion sizes and freeze it. Frustratingly I find the fillets you buy from supermarkets aren’t big enough for my liking and so generally if thats my only option use 3 fillets between the 2 of us. If skinless, it is great in a curry or chowder. If the skin is still on then grill or fry it so that the skin goes nice and crispy. Try my spicy salmon stir-fry.
Why is it good for me?
Omega-3 found in oily fish like salmon, is an essential fatty acid and we need to consume it in our diet regularly as our bodies cannot produce it naturally. The government recommends that we consume at least one portion of oily fish per week. The structure of our brain consists of 60% fatty acids, like omega-3 or more specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in salmon. therefore, it is vital for the proper functioning of our brains. It is also important for good heart health, keeps the nervous system functioning efficiently, can reduce inflammation and plays a role in keeping the immune system strong. As an athlete it has an extra benefit as omega-3 has been found to help with the management of exercise induced asthma, something I suffer with myself.
Salmon is also an extremely good source of protein. Something we need to build and repair muscles, keep our bones healthy and heal any wounds or injuries. It is recommended that we consume between 20-30g of protein per meal, more if you regularly participate in sport. A 100g portion of cooked salmon contains approx 25g of protein so is perfect for achieving this target.
How do I prepare it?
If i’m using fresh salmon the first thing I do is to check it for any bones. Even if the packaging states boneless it is always good practice to just check. I feel along the flesh for any changes in texture and if I find anything I either just pull out the bone with my fingers or if it is a bit stuck, cut it out. If I have bought a whole side of salmon it is usually approx 1kg, which is enough for 3 meals. This means I have to divide it up in to as even portions as I can. Sometimes they aren’t actually very even but I just do my best. I will then freeze the portions until I need them. I remove it from the freezer on the morning of the day I want to cook with it and before I cook I always check that it is thoroughly defrosted. It should feel the same all the way through. I can easily distinguish if there is skin on the salmon and on which side by touch. The flesh side feels smoother and much chunkier than the skin side which is slightly rougher and grainy.
How do I cook it?
Salmon can be baked, roasted, steamed, grilled or fried. It can be cured or smoked. The most nutritious way is to steam it. I like to fry it so that it goes crispy. Rub the skin with a little olive oil and place the fillet skin side down in a very hot frying pan. Depending on the size of fillet, fry it for 3 minutes approx and then flip and fry for another minute. Always fry the skin side down first and fry that side for longer than the other. Be careful not to over-cook salmon as it very easily becomes dry and rubbery. You want it to still be very moist and flake apart when you apply pressure.
In my mind, there is nothing more indulgent than having smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on a bagel for breakfast. It is what my mum serves up on Christmas Day or around Easter if we are home. When I was younger I used to hate the texture of cold smoked salmon in my mouth but now I love it. It is funny how your tastes change as you grow up. Smoked salmon is definitely more of an acquired taste than fresh. Try it in my salmon sushi salad or salmon poke bowl. Just be aware that the smoking process does lower the omega-3 content a little. I must admit, I am not a fan of tinned salmon. However, unlike in tinned tuna, the canning process doesn’t damage the omega-3 levels and so is still a very good choice, and counts towards 1 of your portions of oily fish a week.
What is your favourite way of cooking salmon? Or is it something you struggle to include in your diet? If so then why not try some of my salmon recipes and see if there is one you like. Evidence suggests that in general we struggle to obtain enough omega-3 in our diet and so we all need to make more of an effort to eat it. Let me know how you get on.
Thank you for reading and speak soon.