Home > Ethical Consumption, Food, Provenance, Wine > Whole oven roasted wild Alaskan salmon

Whole oven roasted wild Alaskan salmon

Preparation Time: 15 minutes Cooking Time: 30-45 minutes Yield: 4

Roast wild Alaskan salmon, fresh from the oven. Notice the delicate pink of the flesh, typical of wild salmon.

For those of us who like fish, the number of really healthy and ethical choices available to us is beginning to shrink, and quite alarmingly at that.

If you keep an eye on the press, you’ll periodically see warnings about limiting the consumption of a wide variety of fish types because of increasing levels of toxic substances. The contaminant levels in local fish and seafood are a matter of speculation, but the US is far more attentive to such issues. This guide published by the Environmental Defence Fund is most enlightening. It lists wild Alaskan salmon as the safest to eat from a contaminant point of view.

But it’s not only about such contamination of the worlds fish stocks because of our own stupidity. The manner, in which we go about creating abundance when Nature does not deliver the goods so to speak, is also cause for concern.

The belief that all the salmon, for example, that you buy at your local supermarket fish counter comes from fish born wild and free, and fed only on what Nature provides is a fallacy. Much if not all of the local “salmon trout”, by way of example (in and of itself a fallacy, since there is no such fish – it’s just a very big trout), is in fact farmed in Lesotho where the water at least is cold and clean, well for the time being anyway.

But because it is farmed, it is pellet-fed, and one of the ways they get the flesh so pink in colour, is to include carotene, which although it is originally a natural substance, is commercially produced from algae. One wonders what else is included in the pellets those salmon trout eat…

Salmon is farmed worldwide to meet the massive demand that the exporting of Sushi culture by Japan has engendered, and once again, that deep orange colour you encounter in those vacuum packed smoked (Norwegian/Canadian/Scottish/Irish) salmon portions you buy for that cocktail party has more to do with feed additives like carotene than the smoking, believe me. You see a fish, like a human being, is incapable of digesting carotene, so it accumulates in the flesh, which means that if I ingested enough carotene, I’d turn orange as well. Now there’s a thought!

As much as carotene is said to be harmless – actually it is an anti-oxidant, so its consumption may be good for humans –we have a right as consumers to make the choice, so transparency of provenance and labelling are ineluctable.

Wild Alaskan salmon often fall prey to brown bears as they wend there way upstream to spawn

Imagine my delight therefore, when my favourite fishmonger Claudio Paioni of Seafood on Sail in Gant’s Centre, Strand  , called me the other day to tell me that he had just receive a shipment of wild Alaskan salmon! No flavourants, colourants, preservatives, growth hormones or antibiotics added, just plain ordinary old wild salmon, born free and fed by Nature.

Obviously, having been frozen, it does not make for good sushi, but for any other purpose, it’s fabulous. I collected one of about 2kg, gutted, and hastened home to do something with it.

And salmon is very healthy as well, since it is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, and these are the good ones that help to combat cholesterol.

Ingredients, Selection and Preparation

1 x 2kg wild Alaskan salmon: gutted. Ask your fishmonger to do this for you if you’re squeamish. Rinse well under cold running water and pat dry with paper towel.

4 leeks: finely sliced and well rinsed, because they can be very sandy.

250g ripe mini-tomatoes: those are the little ones, sometimes called cherry tomatoes, but the oblong ones that look like real Italian pomodori are the best. Wash them and cut in half lengthwise.

1 small bunch of fresh coriander leaves: the standard supermarket pack is 30g. I used half because coriander is quite powerful. Rinse well.

1 lemon: thinly sliced, and I mean thinly.

Salt and pepper: freshly ground of course.

Olive oil: best you can afford to anoint the fish.


Pre-heat the oven to 200 deg C.

Rinse the salmon well under cold running water then apt completely dry.

Season the belly cavity well with salt and pepper.

Paint one side of the salmon generously with olive oil and lay it on the oiled side on a lipped oven tray.

Combine the leeks, tomatoes, lemon slices and coriander in a bowl with a glug or two of olive oil and mix gently until well coated.

Stuff as much of this mixture as you can into the belly cavity.

Spread anything that remains onto the baking tray the length of the salmon.

Now, roll the salmon gently onto this bed of ingredients.

It should now be in the centre of the tray, stuffed with this lovely aromatic mixture, lying on the excess stuffing.

Paint the newly exposed side of the salmon with olive oil.

A lovely Alaskan salmon prepared for the oven

Place in the middle of the oven, and bake for 35 minutes. Open the oven and poke a slim bladed knife into the thickest part of the salmon and keep it there for about 10 seconds. Withdraw it, and grip it between thumb and forefinger. If it is very hot to the touch, the salmon is cooked. If not, leave it in the oven for a further five minutes then try again. At most you should bake the fish for no more than 45 minutes.

Set aside covered for 10 minutes to rest.

Peel back the skin gently, and flake to lovely chunks of moist succulent flesh off with a fork. Serve with a crisp green salad, and quarters of lemon. Enjoy!

Wine Match

Eben Sadie makes a number of stellar wines, and whilst I would love to have drunk his 2008 Palladius with this fish – Wine of the Year in Platter’s South African Wines 2010 – it is a shade beyond my budget.

My next best bet in the Sadie stakes is his 2008 Sequillo White Blend, a bottle of which accompanied dinner guest Erica Liebenberg (the doyen of SA wine PR) the night we ate the salmon.

Olive oil golden in colour, it offers waxy citrus blossoms, lemony lime notes tinged with pink grapefruit and a pleasing minerality on the nose.

The acid is brisk, and the vibrant honeyed tropical fruit on entry is supported by a lemony lime backbone in mid-palate. It has a broad mouthfeel and the finish is long and succulent, ending on a distinct sultana note.

  1. January 7, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Excellent bit on wild salmon and source of details on all that’s not and sold in most markets.

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