In 2010 we started on a project to completely refurbish our three-storey Edwardian property, one room at a time. It’s a massive commitment that we’re still only halfway through. The first job was to change the boiler for more energy efficient heating. The second was to install a luxury bathroom complete with crystal chandelier, elegant, Italian stone basins and matching solid ‘egg shell’ bath for the ultimate, ‘pamper-me’ experience.
Talk about best laid plans! Fuelled by junk food and numerous sugar-laden beverages, I’m convinced that the modern workman's lack of care or effort is most likely a dietary affliction! Pleasure in my newly refurbished bathroom lasted for less than a year. Thereafter, the grouting in the shower cubicle fell out and the free-standing floor bath tap broke, meaning I could neither use the shower for risk of it leaking, nor take a bath. Soon after, everything else went kaput. The bidet tap corroded and the mastic sealant around all the waste outlets turned a nasty, dark-golden-urine colour. Unbeknownst to us, the original skirting had been surreptitiously stripped out and replaced with MDF - a well known bathroom ‘clanger’ because when MDF is subjected to moisture it will swell and bow, which it did. As for the central heating system, the plumber told me that at least one radiator in the house, which happened to be the one in our sitting-room and the main one in the new bathroom, needed to stay partially cold for the rest of the system to work and “not to worry”, this was absolutely normal! When the expansion tank in the airing cupboard fell off the wall I knew for sure we were in trouble. The one thing I do have to put my hand up to is the dreadful choice of ‘eco-friendly’ cork floor tiles, which quickly faded and started to lift along their edges, albeit that the sub-floor wasn’t properly levelled to begin with.
I now view most tradespeople with deep distrust! Occasionally, I get really lucky (thanks Callum at Ceramicals for doing such a brilliant tiling job) but all too often my worst fears are realised. It took 6 years for me to bite the bullet and get the central heating fixed. It’s still working, so two weeks ago I dared myself to have the entire bathroom and upstairs toilet ripped out so we could re-tile the floors and replace all the broken bits. The noise and upheaval was enough to make me have kittens! The floor now looks stunning but when the plumber from hell finally finished reconnecting the sanitary ware - never agree to pay a man by the hour when he can talk for England! - and the mains water was turned back on, water poured forth from the toilet and bath, flooding my newly tiled floor. Estimated to be a 4 day job, it took 12 days of pandemonium before I finally got my bathroom and loo back in service…umm, sort of! Neither room has a door - you try sitting on the loo in full view of the stairs and landing - the bath is still unusable, the new bidet tap lever won’t budge and one washbasin waste isn’t watertight. Essentially, it’s back to the drawing board; the onus resting on me to find another plumber who doesn’t have an attitude problem.
If I’m going to cook and blog my way through times like these it had better be something quick, simple and nutritious. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book River Cottage Light & Easy came to my rescue yet again with a recipe for fish and tomato curry. With a couple of minor adjustments - wild salmon holds together better than white fish fillets and I’ve added some fresh chilli too - it became Wild Salmon & Tomato Curry.
Making fish curry may sound like an undertaking but when the spicy tomato sauce is this easy to make and the fish cooks in a matter of minutes, it is the perfect ‘Friday night is curry night’ antidote to a particularly stressful week. Served with spicy cauliflower ‘rice’ or charred broccoli and a very good bottle of red wine it can make life seem worth living even when the sword of Damocles hangs over me for telling the now enraged plumbing misogynist that I won’t be paying his bill in full!
Wild Salmon & Tomato Curry (Serves 3-4)
25g organic coconut oil
1 large organic onion (or 2 medium ones), finely sliced
2” piece of organic fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (yields about 2 teaspoons)
1 organic chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp organic curry powder
300ml organic tomato passata
Pink Himalayan salt (fine crystals)
Organic black pepper, freshly ground
2 drops organic liquid stevia
500g wild keta salmon fillets, skinned (see Notes below)
Juice of half a large organic lime
Fresh organic coriander leaves
Organic Greek yogurt - optional
Heat the coconut oil in a large, deep sauté pan over a medium-low heat.
Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring regularly for 10 minutes.
Add the ginger and chilli and cook for a further minute. Now add the curry powder and cinnamon stick and fry for another minute or two.
Stir in the tomato passata and coconut milk, then add the stevia and season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Stir well and simmer, stirring from time to time, for about 10 minutes until rich and well blended.
Meanwhile, skin the salmon fillets and cut them into large pieces, about 4cm square.
Add the salmon to the sauce, bring back to a very gentle simmer and cook for 4-6 minutes until the fish is just cooked through, stirring very carefully a couple of times. N.B. Don’t break up the fish pieces if you can help it.
Finally, stir in the lime juice, then taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Serve straight away with cauliflower ‘rice’ or a green vegetable. Finish with fresh coriander and black onion seeds scattered on top of the curry and pass around a bowl of Greek yogurt to accompany, if you like.
Because I usually cook for three people, I find just 2 packs of Waitrose's Wild Keta Alaskan Salmon will suffice. This allows for about 5 large pieces of salmon per person. If you’re cooking for four, I’d purchase 3 packs and possibly save some of it to feed to my cat Sushi!
Not all reviews for Wild Keta Salmon are good. Perhaps its rather unappetising sounding Alaskan name “Chum salmon” or “Dog salmon” doesn’t do it any favours. Nevertheless, I’ve found keta salmon to be a firm, high quality salmon that I actually prefer for this recipe. When it comes to choosing salmon, it’s a case of horses for courses, albeit I always select wild Alaskan fish, never farmed. Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon has bright orange-red flesh - perfect for impressive dinner party presentations - which is oilier, stronger tasting and richer in healthy Omega 3s than its pink fleshed, Wild Keta Salmon counterpart. Sockeye salmon holds up really well to grilling. However, I’ve chosen MSC certified Alaskan keta salmon for this recipe because it’s cheaper than sockeye and I actually prefer its lighter colour, flavour and softer texture in this curry.
Fat 34g Protein 27g Carbohydrate 11g - per serving of curry (4 people)
Fat 45g Protein 35g Carbohydrate 14g - per serving of curry (3 people)
Fat 2g Protein 1g Carbohydrate 1g - per 25g serving of Greek yogurt