This is the tale of a boy and his quest to catch a really big fish.
It was an idyllic summer holiday for this particular boy and his sister. A long airplane journey, time in Vancouver catching up with grandparents, aunties, uncles & two particularly adorable cousins, then two weeks at the other grandma and grandpa’s house in a little town by the seaside (including a whole week without parents). The boy couldn’t wait to get there. Beaches, lakes, boats, a huge back garden, loads of attention, and fishing. Kid heaven. Did I mention the fishing? Fishing was way up on the priority list. The boy was determined to catch some fish, and big fish at that.
And so the quest began. I’m not sure grandpa had quite anticipated the boy’s serious enthusiasm for fishing.
First he caught some trout during a day out on the rowboat with dad and grandpa. Grandpa rowed. The boy caught 2 fish. The dad caught but quickly lost 5 fish (one of which was apparently gargantuan).
Then came the cod. After a few days of trying, jackpot. 5 cod of various types were hauled in. That evening his parents were given a rather long treatise on different types of cod and their characteristics.
And then, the salmon. The boy’s parents had been cast adrift without their children for a week. It was tough, but they managed. After yet another dinner out (consoling themselves of course), they arrived back to a missed phone call from the boy with the message, “you’d better phone him”. With visions of blood, gore & tragedy in their heads they quickly rang him, and were told about THE FISH. In great detail, with all the excitement and enthusiasm possessed by a 9 year old boy whose summer dreams had just come true. This was not just any fish, but a 25 lb. spring salmon. To say the boy was excited would be a serious understatement. The photos (proudly snapped by grandma) quickly arrived over email so the parents could see just how big this beast was. And it was big. An hour later the boy caught them on Skype and they could see the excitement in his face, in his movements, in the way he could not stop talking. His parents developed rather large smiles on their faces too.
The fish was weighed then cut up, the pieces earmarked for various things: some to be eaten fresh, some to be frozen, some to become gravadlax, and some to be smoked in grandpa’s custom built smoker. Yes, grandpa smokes his own fish. The smoking process, from brining to drying to smoking was watched over and described with almost religious fervour by the boy. The smoked fish was vacuum packed, frozen, and distributed to various family members. The boy’s portion was carefully packed in his luggage (it was by far the most precious cargo) and flown back to the UK.
The family arrived home, unpacked, and reverently put THE smoked salmon in a place of honour in the fridge. In the back of the mother’s mind lurked the question “what are we going to do with 3 large fillets of smoked fish?” Pasta – yes, an option, perhaps with a cream sauce. Quiche, probably not because the boy and girl aren’t big on quiche. Just pick at it until it disappears? She mulled it over some more. Then she hit on salmon burgers.
They just happened to be having friends round for a barbecue to celebrate the end of summer, friends who are often used as culinary guinea pigs. So burgers it was. A mix of fresh salmon, the smoked salmon, a touch of garlic, fresh herbs. Nothing more was needed.
The result was a succulent burger with a subtle smoky taste. This recipe is definitely a keeper. The culinary guinea pigs gave their approval, and most importantly the boy himself did. One of the ingredients was his fish, after all.
These are for you grandpa, for making this particular boy’s summer dream come true. Try them, you’ll like them.
Smoked Salmon Burgers
The proportions below make about 1 kilo of burger mix, or enough to easily feed 4-5 adults. If you’re scaling the recipe up or down, the important thing is to keep the 3:1 ratio of fresh to smoked salmon.
- 750g boneless, skinless fresh salmon
- 250g smoked salmon (we used Canadian style smoked salmon which is a dry cured, flaky product; you can also use European lox-style smoked salmon)
- 1 clove garlic, finely grated
- A handful of chives or flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1 egg
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
- Accompaniment: chopped fresh dill mixed with Greek yogurt
Chop 500g of the fresh salmon into pieces about 1/2cm square. Put into a mixing bowl.
In a food processor grind the remaining 250g of the fresh salmon, the smoked salmon, garlic & chives to a coarse paste. This mixture will be used to bind the burgers.
Add the paste to the chopped salmon, along with the egg and pepper to taste. Mix with your hands and form the mixture into patties of any size you desire. Set the patties on a tray lined with greaseproof paper, and refrigerate for 1 hour (or freeze for 30 mins) to allow them to set.
Grill on a barbecue, in a grill pan, or fry in a non stick pan for approximately 5 mins per side until just firm to the touch. You want them cooked, but not dried out. Serve immediately with the dilled Greek yogurt.
I would like to submit this recipe to the lovely Cooksister’s annual braai/BBQ event Braai, the Beloved Country. Check out her roundup on 24 September…