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Vivís salmon mousse
This mousse is reasonably quick, cheap and easy to make and makes a good standby, with crusty bread, for lunch. As a starter course, it will impress your guests no end - especially if you use some of the enhancements Iíve suggested. Itís been a regular Christmas dinner starter chez Marsden for years.
The original recipe (along with the one for lemon curd) came from one of my favourite people - my ex-sister-in-law (via Wife Number Two), Viv, who was a seriously good cook when I was still a real novice. Viv had - and presumably still has - a machine called a Thermomix - a sort-of combined blender and cooker: you use the blender function to make a purťe of almost anything, then turn the speed to low and switch the heat on. It makes delicately-cokked mixtures like lemon curd effortlessy. I never used it, or even saw it in full flight, but I ate a number of the recipes in its instruction book. They were all delicious.
Making sense of silly recipes
The main drawback of this recipe in its original form was the instruction to measure out ten tablespoonfuls of mayonnaise. That was a real pain (try it), so I translated it, based on what was engraved on my largest measuring spoon, to 180ml. That wasnít much better - you try getting the surface of the mayonnaise in a measuring jug level enough to measure. In the end I weighed five tablespoons of mayonnaise and did a few simple sums. Weighing is much easier. Actually, this quest for precision in the kitchen seems to be a waste of time. Patricia and I bought a set of measuring spoons for her Dad recently. His tablespoon holds 15ml. Mine holds 18. Thatís a 20% discrepancy.
The mixture will have stuck firmly to the mould around the edge, regardless of oiling, so run a flexible knife round the edge of each mould, trying not to gouge into the mousse. I find the best way to release the mousse is then to lay the loaf tin on each side in turn and thump it firmly on the worktop a few times. When all four sides are free of the tin, the mousse should tip out easily: put your serving plate over the mould, hold them together and invert smartly. Lift the mould a bit. If the mousse doesnít stay on the plate give the whole assembly a couple of thumps on the worktop.
The mousse should be firm enough to stand up on the plate, slice and eat with a fork but creamy enough to spread on bread or toast if you prefer. Serve in slices at least a centimetre thick, with good bread, a simple salad (watercress is good) and a squeeze of lemon.
You could also serve my fast Sauce Marie Rose (prawn cocktail sauce) which actually goes far better with this robustly-flavoured mousse than it does with the more delicate prawns.
I have made this mousse with left-over fresh salmon. I donít think the taste was significantly different in view of all the other ingredients.
Jazzing it up
The single most spectacular improvement to this mousse is to fold in half a pound of chopped-up smoked salmon. I buy 8 oz vacuum packs of trimmings from my local fishmonger - you need to pick them over carefully for bits of bone, fin, gristle and skin but thatís no hardship: you can chew the meat off these before you discard them, eat one or two of the choicer morsels and have a generally luxurious ten minutes. If this isnít the origin of the phrase ífingerlickiní goodí, it ought to be.
Sainsburyís also sell packets of Scotch smoked salmon trimmings, which are very good. However, since they contain no grotty bits you donít have to pick them over. Nibble a few pieces anyway.
You need to watch the quality of smoked salmon. We recently bought a sliced side from Norway in a French hypermarket, and it wasnít a Patch on the Scotch stuff. When it comes to sensational things like smoked salmon (which Wife Number Two thought tasted like raw bacon, for Godís sake) itís crazy to skimp.
The mousse is even better if you add the zest of a lemon. Unwaxed lemons are best (well washed, of course), and since the zest isnít cooked it needs to be very finely-shredded - a grater will do but a purpose-designed zester is far better. Even then I like to pulverise it thoroughly with a pestle and mortar to break down any leathery bits.
Sprinkling the inside of the oiled mould generously with dried dill or sticking feathery fronds of the fresh herb to the oil before pouring in the mousse makes it look more interesting. You can also pour in a layer, sprinkle with dill, pour in another layer, and so on. I guess you could even coat the mould with a thin layer of clear aspic and get really creative with herb leaves if you were desperate to impress someone special...
Mousse Mk II
For our starter on Christmas Day 1997, this recipe underwent another dramatic mutation. I bought a couple of really handsome-looking salmon tail fillets and steamed one very carefully, in a basin to catch the juices, peeping under the lid every half-minute or so and testing gently until I could just separate the flakes. The resulting super-succulent fish (itís so easy to make salmon dry and uninteresting) and its juice were used instead of tinned salmon to make the mousse. I weighed the cooked fish and its juices on my trusty digital scale, accurate to 5 grams, and used the method described in The calculator (and other electronic devices) in the kitchen to work out the quantities of the other ingredients (if this is too much for your maths, just cook plenty of fish, weigh out 210 grams or so, make the mousse to the recipe above and eat the rest of the salmon separately).
The oiled mould was carefully lined with thinly-sliced smoked salmon (see my comment about quality above).
I then steamed the second fillet just as carefully. As soon as it was cool, I flaked it carefully and put several layers of thinly scattered flakes and feathery fronds of fresh dill, into the lined mould with the mousse. The result, sliced onto a bed of watercress and served with a refined version of Sauce Marie Rose and fresh Italian bread, looked and tasted sensational.
Mousse Mk III - ten years on
For Christmas dinner 2007 I made the mousse with my hot-smoked salmon instead of either tinned or fresh. The result was mild-flavoured but very good with the ubiquitous Sauce Marie Rose and Patricia?s Melba Toast.
Personal site for Paul Marsden: frustrated writer; experimental cook and all-round foodie; amateur wine-importer; former copywriter and press-officer; former teacher, teacher-trainer, educational software developer and documenter; still a professional web-developer but mostly retired.
This site was transferred in June 2005 to the Sites4Doctors Site Management System, and has been developed and maintained there ever since.