With the very notable exception of the January bush fires, this summer has been relatively kind to the Adelaide Hills, with mild days and cool nights. All that is set to change for the rest of this week and the heat will herald a distinct lack of activity in my kitchen. We have resisted the temptation to give in to air conditioning, so hot weather involves carefully timed manipulation of windows, blinds, shutters and awnings to keep our house as cool as possible. Of course, once the mercury hits 40C there’s not much I can do, except go to water – literally by lolling in the pool, and figuratively by languishing palely on the couch. And as far as meals go? Well I’m good for a salad or two in the first days, but after that I completely lose interest.
This gorgeous, golden salad is perfect for this weather. It’s easy to put together, but with a slightly gourmet twist which makes it far more interesting than the dreary tuna salads which appeared on the summer dinner tables of my youth. This can be made with cold or hot smoked salmon and is equally delicious with either. I prefer to use the hot-smoked and always opt for the locally produced Harris Smokehouse products. (Find out more about them here.) Do not compromise on the quality of the mayonnaise – homemade or good, whole egg mayo is the only way to go – and make sure you have genuine saffron.
I’ve seen a lot of fake saffron around, both here in Australia and overseas, but there are a couple of ways to check to make sure you have the real deal. The cost will be one obvious indicator. Saffron is the dried stigma of the saffron crocus flower and is hand harvested over a very limited period, then dried using hand processing methods, making it the costliest spice in the world. I buy it in tiny amounts, not by the jar – if it’s cheap, it’s not real.
I’ve heard that red-dyed corn silk is sometimes sold as saffron and those who are familiar with this spice will be able to distinguish this from the real thing by it’s distinctive fragrance. For those less familiar with saffron, the easiest way to test is to drop a few strands into some hot water. After just a few moments the water will be coloured a rich gold and the strands will still retain their red colour. If the strands lose their colour then it isn’t the real deal.
With lots of fresh herbs and bold flavours, this is another of my simple, go-to, meals which takes no time to put together, but makes a big impact. Make the mayo ahead of time and, really, all you have to do is assemble it when it’s time to serve. And when it’s this hot, who has the energy to do anything else?
Smoked Salmon Salad with Saffron Mayo
- 250 gms of either hot-smoked or cold-smoked salmon
- 300 gms baby potatoes quartered, boiled for 10 minutes, then cooled
- 200 gms green beans blanched
- 1 bunch asparagus blanched
- 4 spring onions finely chopped
- handful of cherry tomatoes halved
- 1/4 cup finely chopped basil
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
- 1/4 cup finely chopped coriander
- 1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 good pinch of saffron strands
- Baby spinach leaves and croutons for garnishing.
- Soak Saffron strands in the lemon juice. Set aside for 10 minutes, then add to the mayo mixing well to combine. The mayo should be fairly loose - add a little more lemon juice if necessary.
- Break up the smoked fish into small pieces.
- Chop beans and asparagus into halves or thirds.
- Combine all fish, vegetables and fresh herbs, retaining some of the coriander for garnish. Toss all gently together to combine and arrange on a platter which has been lined with baby spinach leaves.
- Drizzle with the saffron mayo, then sprinkle with croutons and chopped coriander.