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East London Food Heroes – Forman & Field, E3

H Forman's Smoked Salmon

 

I love fish. Especially smoked fish.  And I love salmon.  So faced with a pack of smoked salmon, I am in seventh heaven. It was a real delight then to sample some of H. Forman’s London Smoked Salmon in my continuing quest to find the best of East London produced food.  H Forman & Son are one of the oldest smokeries in London, newly sited in a fantastic position alongside the new Olympic Stadium at Stratford.

Now, even though I am within a few miles of the Olympic Stadium I’ve not been there yet.  So I can’t tell you how it is coming along.  But,  if you want to have a check on how that is progressing, there is a live webcam from Forman’s Fish Island building at their website .

And by the same token, it was only when looking at the Forman website for some background information on them that I realised just what a stunning new building they had built. If the Olympic Stadium is supposed to be an architectural heritage for generations to come, then the Fish Island building would look to be even more impressive.  I really must wangle a visit to look around and see how the salmon is actually prepared.

Forman's at Fish Island

I am not certain how well known it is that London has a long tradition of smoking fish, and actually started smoking salmon before the Scots.

Scottish tradition was for smoking herrings and haddock,  but not salmon.  East London in Victorian times had a large Jewish immigrant population fleeing Russian persecution in Europe, who brought their traditions of smoked and salted foods with them. Originally importing Baltic salmon, heavily salted and strong flavoured, the Jewish fishmongers soon discovered fresh Scottish salmon at Billingsgate, which produced a much finer, tastier product.

Harry Forman, the first of 4 generations of Formans at H. Forman & Son, came to England from Odessa in this Victorian wave of immigration,  developing the now world famous London Cure for his smoked salmon.   The fabulous blog Spitalfields Life interviewed Lance Forman earlier this year, and you can read the history of the company in detail in his interview ( do go and have a read, it is a great blog, you’ll find some really interesting historical information about East London).

So enough of the history lesson, on with the fish.

I had plans, Oh I really did. I would create an interesting, exciting, seasonal dish using this wonderful salmon.

But to be honest, when I opened the packet and tasted a corner, I really couldn’t bring myself to muck about with it.  This is the London Cure, light, slightly sweet,not too salty and not at all fatty.  Yes, it is using farmed salmon, but this is miles away from supermarket smoked salmon, good as that is for lots of things.

Smoked Salmon

So I simply draped the salmon on a plate, added a small side salad of cucumber, and a nice fat dollop of creme fraiche with chopped dill. And then made some buckwheat blinis to go alongside.

 

Smoked Salmon, creme fraiche with dill, blinis

Blinis are a traditional thing to serve with smoked salmon. Also from an Eastern European heritage, they are good with caviar and other smoked fish too.  And they are easy, if a little time consuming to make.  If you have ever made drop scones, then you can make blini. You are looking for a little, thick, savoury pancake, full of lightness and holes.

 

A Bite of Blini

I  used Nigella Lawson’s recipe, slightly tweaked (it is almost unheard of for me NOT to tweak a recipe mind you…).  This recipe made 16 small blinis (about 2-3 ins across), enough for 3 people (or 2 and a few left over to fry up for breakfast with scrambled eggs).

Next time out I think I will add some chopped chives to the batter before frying, and perhaps up the proportion of buckwheat to strong white flour, as I really like the nutty flavour that gives.

 

Buckwheat Blinis
Recipe Type: Bread
Author: Nigella Lawson with tweaks by Greedy Piglet
Prep time: 2 hours 30 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 2 hours 50 mins
Serves: 2 to 3
Delicious little yeasted buckwheat mini pancakes, perfect for eating with smoked salmon, caviar or any other savoury topping.
Ingredients
  • 100g buckwheat flour
  • 50g strong white flour
  • or 150g total of the two flours, Nigella uses 75g of each)
  • 1 sachet easyblend yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 120ml milk – the extra buckwheat flour needs more liquid, Nigella uses 100ml for her 50/50 mix of flours
  • 2 tbs creme fraiche (or you can use sour cream, or even yoghurt)
  • 1tbsp butter + extra for cooking
  • 1 egg, separated
Instructions
  1. Mix the flours with the yeast, salt and sugar.
  2. Pour the milk into a measuring jug. Add the creme fraiche and mix well. Then add water so that the liquid comes up to the 270ml mark.
  3. Add this mix to a milk pan, add the butter and warm gently until the butter JUST melts.
  4. Allow this mix to cool to blood temperature before beating in the egg yolk.
  5. Pour this mix onto the flours, and combine. Cover (either with a damp tea towel or a loose piece of clingfilm) and leave in a warm place for 2 hours until thick and full of bubbles. Nigella also suggests leaving in the fridge overnight (if you want them for breakfast.)
  6. Just before using whisk up the egg white and fold in. You will lose some of the frothiness, but it will be fine.
  7. Preheat the oven to low and put a plate in the oven (to keep the blinis warm), heat a frying pan or griddle to medium hot (much the same hot as if you planned to fry some eggs). If you have a blini pan, you can do them individually, I did mine three at a time in a 10 inch pan, rather like drop scones.
  8. Melt some butter in a small pan, and use a pad of kitchen paper dipped in this to lightly grease the frying pan or griddle. Take spoonfuls of the mix and drop onto the hot frying pan. The mix will fight you a bit, but just talk to it severely and it will come to heel.
  9. Cook until you see bubbles break in the batter, and the top of the batter starts to look dry
  10. Once the underside is golden, move to a plate and cover with a piece of foil, use your pad of kitchen paper to grease your pan again, and make another three.
  11. Continue until all the batter is used up.