One of the best podcasts I've listened to during quarantine is Home Cooking,
a four-part series hosted by Samin Nosrat (author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat) and Hrishikesh Hirway (best known for his own podcast, Song Exploder). It's charming and relatable, too: home cooks from all over send in lockdown-inspired questions about everything from soaking beans to making a birthday cake without all-purpose flour.
In one episode, a woman calls in with a problem: her garden has exploded in a bounty of herbs following the unseasonably warm weather and she doesn’t know how to use up all the sudden greenery. Nosrat recommends kuku sabzi – an herb-stuffed Persian frittata. The reference reminded me of sabzi polo: one of my favourite Persian dishes, which sees parboiled rice mixed with heaps of herbs and slowly steamed until it forms a crispy layer of rice (tahdig) at the bottom. And with that, I knew I had the missing component I needed for this month’s dish.
For a week, I'd been mulling over what to pair with this lip-smacking Rosé de Pinot Noir. This wine, which hails from Andlau in Alsace, is hazily salmon-hued, owing to the fact it undergoes 24-hour, whole-bunch maceration. It’s also brightly acidic, with notes of crunchy red fruit alongside a green and stemmy character – the grapes are picked early in the season to ensure this zingy vibrancy. Colour association aside, rich, fatty salmon often works well with Pinot Noir, but
I wanted an herbaceous component to pick up this particular rosé's fresh character: herb-packed rice would be the perfect thing.
But instead of doing a proper sabzi polo, I borrowed its ingredients (chives, parsley, coriander and dill) and took the dish halfway to Japan. This rice, made with short-grain sushi rice instead of long-grain basmati and seasoned with rice vinegar and sesame oil, is fast to make, with no worries about under- or over-cooking. Though absent of tahdig, its warm and sticky starchiness makes it the perfect bed for the salmon.
I've made salmon sashimi at home before and am always struck by how simple it is, and how cost-effective compared to ordering it in restaurants or via Deliveroo. I'd been wanting to do it again after seeing Seung Hee Lee (the phenomenal KoreanFusion on Instagram) bathing slices of salmon belly in a soy broth. With her inspiration, I created a broth of my own, and added chunks of ginger, diced chillis and spring onions to further perfume the mix. (I also threw a couple of egg yolks into the broth, which turn sluggishly oozy after just an hour spent curing in the liquid.)
The final result is a dish that trips between continents, that pulls from traditions and flavours in different places without fully belonging to any of them. It’s a dish that wouldn’t exist without the inspiration of these two brilliant chefs, and it’s also perfectly befitting of this exemplary wine.
Soy-Cured Salmon Sashimi and Egg Yolks with Herb Rice
For the soy broth and salmon:
150ml light soy sauce
50g light brown sugar
1 bunch spring onions, roughly chopped
3-4 bird's eye chillis, diced
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and sliced
350g skinless, sashimi-grade salmon fillet
Furikake, to garnish (optional)
For the rice:
210g sushi rice
1 teaspoon fine sea salt,
Small handful (approx. 10g) flat-leaf parsley
Small handful (10g) coriander
Small handful (10g) dill
Large handful (10g) chives
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons caster sugar
1–2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1. First, prepare your soy broth. Add the water, soy sauce and brown sugar to a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir to help the sugar dissolve.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, add the spring onions, chillis and ginger. When the brine mixture begins to simmer, remove from the heat and pour over the aromatics. Leave to cool and infuse for at least one hour, and up to overnight – the longer you leave it, the more flavourful the broth will become. If infusing for more than one hour, cover and place in the fridge.
3. Roughly one hour before you plan to serve, remove your salmon from the fridge. Using your sharpest knife, slice on a slight bias; slices should be even and roughly ⅓-inch thick. Place the slices in the soy broth to cure (ensure the broth has fully cooled before doing so).
4. Crack two eggs; gently separate the yolks – discarding the whites and shells – and place into the bowl with the soy broth, ensuring they do not break. Carefully spoon some of the broth over the yolks. Cover and place the bowl in the fridge; leave the salmon and eggs to cure for 45 minutes–1 hour.
5. As the fish lightly cures, prepare the sushi rice. Rinse the rice thoroughly under cold running water, agitating gently with your hands, until the starch has washed away and the water runs clear, roughly 4–5 minutes. Transfer to a medium lidded saucepan and season lightly with salt. Pour over the 300ml of water and raise the heat; as soon as the mixture begins to boil, cover tightly and turn the heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat without taking off the lid and leave to steam for 10 minutes further.
6. As the rice cooks and steams, add the parsley, coriander, dill and chives to a food processor. Blend until very well minced. In a small bowl or ramekin, mix together 1 teaspoon of sea salt, the rice vinegar, lemon juice and caster sugar. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
7. When the rice is done steaming, remove the lid and fluff with a fork. Pour the vinegar seasoning mixture over and drizzle in the sesame oil; mix with a spatula to combine. Add the minced herbs and mix until evenly distributed. Divide between two bowls.
8. Remove the salmon from the fridge and arrange the salmon slices in an overlapping semi-circle on top of each bowl of rice. Gently place a cured egg yolk in the centre of each bowl. If desired, drizzle over some of the broth. Garnish with the furikake, if using, and serve immediately.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer and wine hound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen. Don’t miss out on Claire’s wine and food pairings, which go out every month in our Natural Wine Killers subscription boxes. Sadly, this wine is too popular for its own good, so has sold out, but you can find other tasty natural rosés here.