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Recipe: Poached whole salmon

05 April 2016 at 10:04


As a child my grandfather always had a whole poached salmon for Sunday lunch in the summer and I remember what a treat and spectacle it was. People are often afraid of cooking a whole fish but it’s really very simple and, as it’s on the bone the fish won’t dry out as easily as if it was just a fillet. Back in the 1960’s I believe the food writer Robert Carrier gave a recipe for cooking a salmon in the dishwashing machine! And whilst this got over the size of dish needed and the worry of temperatures it’s not very practical. Ideally a fish kettle is the item required but often it’s not very big, but if you do have one it allows you to cook the fish and lift it out of the water easily. However I find that a roasting tray with a small cooling rack in the base is enough and you can lift the fish out easily, it just needs covering in foil to cook, but otherwise the following recipe is fine.

In my childhood the salmon would have been a wild one probably from the Tay, but today it’s easy to get a very good farmed one. The Loch Fyne Oyster bar sources very good local farmed salmon.


One whole salmon @ 2 – 2.25 kg
1 onion peeled and sliced
2 carrots thinly sliced
Stick celery,
sliced Fennel fronds (optional)
A few peppercorns
2 bay leaves
4 tblsp white wine vinegar
Tsp sea salt


  1. Place the salmon on the trivet for the fish kettle and put it into the kettle.
  2. Add the ingredients and then cover with cold water, and bring to the boil over a medium heat.
  3. Once boiling switch off the heat and leave the fish to cool. As simple as that!
  4. You can either leave it to cool completely, or just for an hour or so and serve it warm. Either way lift it out and scrape off the skin using a sharp knife it will come away easily and dress on a long dish.
  5. A cucumber peeled and thinly sliced placed along the middle of the fish makes a simple presentation, but don’t get too hung up on that as the whole fish itself looks great!

If warm serve with an hollandaise or if cold as a centre piece it’s lovely with a herb mayonnaise.

Ingredients for Herb Mayonnaise

4 tblsp mayonnaise
Juice of half a lemon
2 tblsp chopped parsley
2 tsp chopped tarragon or dill
Freshly ground black pepper

Mix the ingredients together and season.

Wild garlic or watercress also make a good mix for mayonnaise. Serve with some new Ayrshire potatoes and a green salad.

Recipe by Christopher Trotter
Food photography by Caroline Trotter