“Someone just delivered oysters for you,” said the email from my colleague. I was working from home, he was at my desk in Livingston. Oysters? I hadn’t ordered oysters. For a second I ran through the options and made plans. Christopher was off, I could adk him to drive over. Or I could send a taxi. Then my mind caught up.
“Can you open and confirm content?” I emailed back. “It should be smoked salmon and beer.” It was, and my colleague kindly put it in the fridge for when I was next in the office.
When I was in school, we were told a possibly apocryphal story about salmon. In the 19th Century, servants and farmhands up north in Sweden had agreements with their employers about how often they got salmon. The deal was something like no more than three times a week.
This was back when the rivers were thick with salmon and dried and salted fish was the cheapest protein around. By the time I was being served this story, salmon was a luxury item, something eaten at special occasions.
I have a great fondness for salmon. I like it poached, light pink and falling off the bone, with cucumber and home-made mayo. I like it quick-griddled, red in the middle, pink at the edges with scorch-marks on the outside. I love it still translucent, either because it’s raw as in sashimi or cured salmon, or because it’s cold-smoked.
Cured salmon is a huge favourite. We used to have a cured side at Christmas, both as part of the smorgasbord on Christmas eve, and as snacks – slices on crispbread – for the rest of the holidays. Towards new year, leftovers would go in the oven with potatoes, cream and egg to make salmon pudding.
Cured salmon isn’t so common in Scotland. I eat in in restaurants, or when I occasionally make my own (easy and delicious!), but I can’t get it in the supermarket. Cold-smoked salmon, luckily, is easy to find and of great quality. It has the same silky texture as cured, the same hit of salt, but the added complexity of smoke. Love it.
The obvious partner to salmon, tipple-wise, is white wine. Or is it Fyne Ales, an artisan brewer based at Loch Fyne, doesn’t agree. They developed a beer specifically to partner with fish. This Gose is is a light golden beer with coriander and lemon grass. It has fairly high acidity, is light and refreshing, spicy and zesty. I was very fortunate to be offered a couple of bottles to try with a generous helping of Loch Fyne smoked salmon from Loch Fyne Oysters. (It was their name on the label that concerned my colleague.)
This Gose is especially developed to work with smoked salmon. And it does. It cuts through the fat and smoke of the salmon, lightening and brightening the product. Meanwhile the salmon brings depth and silkiness to the beer that it lacks on its own (I tried it both ways: great with salmon, still drinkable but less great without).
Argyll, PA26 8BJ
Argyll, PA26 8BL