An ode to Bagels & Lox
What better a way to spend a weekend than sat somewhere sunny with your friends, sipping champagne and eating breakfast food until 4pm? No longer do lazy, hungover Sunday mornings feel deprived of a little class, and that’s not even to mention the new-found excuse to drink before noon. If you tuned in to our side dish this week, you would already know the significance to G and her family, so this week we thought it only fitting to cover our mutual favourite brunch food which has Jewish origins… funny how things work out, it’s like we planned it or something.
“The cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean twinned with the ample spawning grounds that twist Scottish countryside creates the perfect environment for healthy fish to survive”
We love smoked food, especially salmon, and nothing tops a bagel better than lox and a generous layer of cream cheese. It is hard to tell exactly where smoked salmon (lox) originated from, but what we do know is that the technique of smoking goes back from centuries all the way to the Greeks and Romans of antiquity. In the past, the process of smoking and salt-curing was commonly used to preserve food, to stop the growth of harmful bacteria and allow it to be consumable for more than a day. It was practical at first as this was a time before fridges, but we, as a species, have evolved to enjoy the taste of smoked goods in their own right. How’s that for a spot of Darwinism?
You may have noticed already this week, that this post is not flanked by a recipe, and that is because we (mostly T) got ahead of ourselves. We tried to cure our own salmon with a kit from an overpriced farm shop in North Wales and it did not work. What’s that? Is this a bad review? We think so, but we must admit that we were a little at fault as well. First, we should have understood that ‘cured’ and ‘smoked’ does not mean the same thing. Of course, you should cure before you smoke, but you cannot expect perfect results when you only do half the process. Our bad. However, now comes the time when we can shamelessly blame our tools. We used the Ross & Ross salmon curing kit, which in all honestly looked legit, well, enough anyway.
“Then popped them in to bags, which *spoiler* leaked magenta liquor all over T’s fridge”
When it comes to food products T constantly falls victim to marketing techniques no matter how desperate. How ironic when we both work in marketing for the day jobs. The kit comes with three packets of salt cure (beetroot, smoky and gin), plastic gloves, curing bags, and instructions… laminated instructions, don’t you know.
When it came to the fish we went for the highest quality we could get our hands on, a small wild salmon caught from the River Spey in Scotland by T’s fly-fishing obsessed father. It was swimming in the river just under a month ago before it was frozen, thawed, gutted and filleted by T’s fair hand, which was subsequently less fine after being inside the fish in question. We decided to use the gin and beetroot cures on two separate fillets of salmon… perhaps another faux pas was when the smoke cure sat starring down at us, laughing with glee while we scratched our heads wondering ‘why doesn’t it taste like smoked salmon?!” We washed the fish and then rubbed the salts into every nook and cranny. Then popped them in to bags, which *spoiler* leaked magenta liquor all over T’s fridge, with a wait for 48 hours, turning once half way through.
“Moral of the story? Don’t be tricked by half-arsed kits when it comes to replicating your favourite food”
The verdict? Disgusting. The fish was then washed thoroughly, patted dry and sliced thinly. The colour of the beetroot cure was fantastic, and in contrast to the bright orange flesh was aesthetically pleasing, while the gin cure just went dull. The smell of the fish wasn’t great, really, well… fishy. Yeah, yeah ‘no shit Sherlock’, we hear your shout, but if you cast your eyes four paragraphs up, cured fish is supposed to preserve it, and it did not smell right. Trust T’s nose on this one. In fairness, it could have been the fish, however it was flash frozen the day it was caught and thoroughly defrosted before the salts went anywhere near it, so we would suggest the kit was to blame.
The texture wasn’t right at all. We were expecting smooth, silky, shiny slices that were easy to cut with a sharp knife, but the fish sort of disintegrated into disappointingly meagre chunks. The colour was dull underneath the initial excitement of the purple hue. As for the taste? Overly fishy, salty and with a subtle undertone of chemicals or soap. All in all, you won’t catch it topping our bagels.
“Messing up sometimes is what makes us human”
Moral of the story? Don’t be tricked by half-arsed kits when it comes to replicating your favourite food. In future, read about it and research the process thoroughly, buy the correct materials yourself and most importantly, don’t be idiots like us… the clue to the secret of smoked salmon, is in the name.
“Make sure you always finish them off with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of black pepper”
So, what instead? Luckily for us there is a large market for smoked salmon in our supermarkets and you will be able to get you paws on some quite easily. Of course, you can head to a deli or artisanal shop if you want the real McCoy, but in the meantime, we are here to let you know what to look for when buying smoked salmon:
- You should always try and buy Scottish and this is for a few reasons. Firstly, we have a plethora of fantastic seafood here in the UK, and it should be your responsibility as a gastronomic to eat local and buy British to reduce your carbon footprint. Secondly, it’s delicious. The cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean twinned with the ample spawning grounds that twist Scottish countryside creates the perfect environment for healthy fish to survive.
- The colour should be vivid orange even moving on to red with Canadian Sockeye varieties. Avoid salmon which is pasty or anaemic.
- You should look out for a high fat content in the fish. You should be able to see whiteish grooves in the flesh, and this indicates that it was a healthy, well-fed fish. This fat helps flavour the fish and keep it moist.
You don’t need much direction when it comes to putting your bagels together. Slice them in half, spread with cream cheese and top with smoked salmon. Dress with anything you like; avocado, red onion, cucumber or caper berries, but make sure you always finish them off with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of black pepper.
We’ve really enjoyed bringing you something a little bit different this week. Trying new techniques is what makes us who we are over at G&T HQ. Messing up sometimes is what makes us human, and we have to say, experimenting in the kitchen is one of our favourite things to do.
See you next Thursday,