Here’s a question I never thought I’d be asking: can we replicate the flavour of salmon without actually using fish?
With the rise of commercial alternative proteins and plant-based meat, I’ve been exploring ways to make my own version as “talking point” canapés for those still embracing meat but wanting to dip their toes into a less meaty world and also to showcase what plant-based ingredients can do. And, honestly, the answer to the question above is, actually, yes!
This recipe for carrot smoked “salmon” is clever, mimicking both the appearance and flavour of sliced smoked salmon, and – here’s the best part – it’s technically super simple.
Recipe: vegan smoked salmon
- 1–2 carrots
- 1 tsp liquid smoke
- pinch of fresh chopped herbs (dill, chervil or parsley)
- good pinch of sea salt
- pinch of white pepper
- juice of ½ lemon
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Peel the carrot and discard exterior. Then peel the rest of the carrot into ribbons.
- Steam ribbons for 10 min.
- Mix all other ingredients together (except herbs), then toss the carrot ribbons in the marinade and transfer to an oven tray.
- Bake for 16 min at 190°C. Check that the texture is not too al dente – you want it to be soft.
- Add the herbs, mix and then cool the carrots. I serve this as you traditionally would for smoked salmon for added impact. When we serve this alongside regular smoked salmon, even our chefs do a double take!
Let’s continue with the carrot and think along the lines of soup for using leftover veggies – except here we’re going way past juicing and into the more modern space of fluid gels. Don’t get scared – you can do this too! Fluid gels are basically silky-smooth purées that will modernise any dinner plate or canapé.
Now, many recipes require unusual ingredients such as Kelcogel F (a low-acyl gellan gum) – and, yes, they will take your gels to the next level – but let’s start with an introduction to gels. Here, I’m using good, ol’ agar. You can add a little xanthan gum to improve the mouthfeel and silkiness if you so desire. Strongly coloured and flavoured ingredients work well here – beetroot, pumpkin and mango, for example – for maximum impact.
Recipe: carrot fluid gel
- 225g carrots, juiced
- 1 tbsp chopped agar
- 1 star anise
- salt and white pepper, to taste
- ¼ tsp xanthan gum (optional)
- Soak the agar in ½ the carrot juice for 7 min before using to soften. Then simmer gently until the agar is mostly melted, around 8 min, adding the star anise for the last 2 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and white pepper, then pour in the other ½ of the juice.
- Add the xanthan gum to the liquid (if using) and whisk well. Spread on a cling-film-lined tray and chill until set.
- After you have a firm gel, force the jelly through a fine sieve. You can add a little water if you want to achieve a super-smooth texture. The gel will hold its shape when handled. Try a squeeze bottle to make perfect spheres.
Fermentation is true alchemy, pulling magic out of the air to add funk and umami with just two ingredients: salt and time. In essence, any ingredient can be submerged in a 2% brine and left for two weeks for the magic to happen. Try shiitake mushrooms or tomatoes to achieve a flavour bomb of savoury notes that you can use to boost plant-based dishes or add to an aged meat or cheese on toast, salads or any of your favourite dishes.
With time, the lactic acid bacteria from the air (which turns sugar into lactic acid) starts to work on the food (in the same way blue cheese or aged meat works), with the lack of oxygen and salt level keeping out the bad strains.
Recipe: fermented mushrooms
- 1kg 1-cm sliced mixed mushrooms, frozen (button/shiitake/portobello etc)
- 4g sea salt
- Weigh the mushrooms.
- Add water to just cover the cut mushrooms and weigh again. The salt will be 2% of the finished weight. Add 2g sea salt/kg of water + mushroom mix (e.g. if you have 500g mushrooms + 500g water, you will need 2g salt).
- Completely submerge the mushrooms in a jar and store at room temperature. Over the coming days, the mushrooms will start to bubble and turn slightly cloudy.
- Start to taste the liquid after around 4–6 days, which will give you an idea of how the taste is developing – 7 days should do it. Add a spoonful of the liquid to your sauces; it may just change your life! Or go one step further and dehydrate and powder the mushrooms to add an earthy note to your meat and veggie dishes.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Foodie Magazine
Ask Tom your own kitchen queries and he’ll experiment to find the answer! Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org