For my second (entree) course in my four-course meal, I decided to take on an unfamiliar cooking technique. I thought this would be quite a challenge as I could not for the life of me think of a technique I hadn't tried before, and that was interesting enough to write an assignment about (I've never deep fried food before but I wanted something more exotic for some bonus marks)!
Luckily a Google search of "unusual cooking techniques" came up with some absolute winners, from recipes with an intriguing back story (Beggar's Chicken - in which the chicken is covered in mud and then baked) to new ways of using household appliances (salmon in a dishwasher, anyone? how about an ironed cheesed sandwich?). I was surprised at how many techniques there actually were to try!
The technique that I eventually decided on was tea-smoking - it had a nice balance of being unusual enough but still within the realms of my abilities (and it gave me an opportunity to try out a new cooking method for my beloved tea!). This method originates from Sichuan province in China, and uses tea leaves to create smoke. Normally duck is used, but I chose to do salmon because I love smoked salmon, and I also thought it might be a bit easier!
What got me about this method was that I had always thought of smoking as being some sort of very caveman-like, primeval experience, requiring a big smoking shed and a wood fire, and filling the air with great big billowing clouds of smoke. But with tea-smoking you don't need to bother with all of that fuss, as the smoking can be done completely inside, in a regular kitchen, with just a wok or a pot!
Luckily, the end result was perfectly cooked salmon with a lightly smoky flavour, and most surprisingly the tea leaves did impart their unique fragrant aroma to the dish. I used green tea to keep with the Chinese theme, but I think it would be a nice to experiment with different types of tea leaves to see how it changes the flavour.
My family taste testers enjoyed this dish overall, commenting that the salmon had an unusual but nice taste, and that the tea taste was in fact quite noticeable. The only quibble was from Mr Duckie, who said that it was missing some flavour - of course in my hurry I had forgotten to put some salt on!
I was rather nervous about making this dish, as I had images of myself smoking out the whole house and setting off the fire alarm. In fact, this turned out to be a very easy dish to make . Basically you just put some tea leaves in the bottom of a steamer, heat up for a while to create some smoke, then pop the salmon pieces on top! I should warn you though that this will create some strong smelling smoke - in fact Mr Duckie kept asking me whether I had burnt something - I reassured him multiple times that it was supposed to smell smoky, although I’m not sure that either he or I was convinced!
Overall, I think this dish definitely gives you bang for your buck. There are plenty of healthy omega-3 fats from the salmon and no other fats or oils need to be added. Adding a simple side salad can easily turn this into a complete meal. The process is quite quick and straightforward (although do make sure to open your windows!). And you can easily impress your family and friends by pretending you had to use some fancy smoking equipment to create the unique flavour!
Now onto trying some more unusual cooking techniques!
600g salmon fillets, skin on
8 tbsp jasmine rice
8 tbsp soft brown sugar
4 tbsp green tea leaves
1 tbsp cider vinegar
Cut salmon fillets into six pieces, or so they will fit into a steamer basket. Place salmon, skin down, into steamer basket (the skin protects the fish from sticking to the steamer).
Line a pot with 4 layers of foil. In a small bowl, mix rice, sugar and tea leaves. Place in the bottom of the pot and spread it out so it covers the base evenly. Cover with a lid, place over a low heat, and leave to smoke for 5 minutes.
Remove lid and place steamer basket over the pot. Replace lid and smoke for 10 minutes (or until cooked to your liking). Once cooked, remove salmon from basket. The salmon flesh should lift away easily from the skin.
Meanwhile, combine carrots, radishes and vinegar.
Serve salmon with carrot and radish salad.