First catch your salmon …

travfoodsalmon5THIS week’s recipe and travelogue from our resident private chef Philippa Davis combines three of our favourite things – Scotland, salmon and food in the open air.

We’ve known Philippa for years. She comes from Shaftesbury and we first sampled her delicious and inventive cooking at the Mudchute Kitchen on the city farm in an unexpected splash of green and countryside overlooked by the Canary Wharf towers in Dockland.

Philippa moved on to become a private chef, with clients and bookings all over the world. In the last few months she has worked in the Alps, Boston, the south of France, Singapore and Scotland, cooking for both shoots and fishing parties.

She has been back to Findhorn recently, catering for salmon fishermen – and here she shares more of her Scottish experiences and her cooking inspirations and  expertise.

Philippa has contributed a series of meal menus for our new book Deepest Dorset, which is being published at the end of September – and you can follow her travels and read more of her recipes on her highly entertaining blog at

travfoodsalmon2Hatched, matched and dispatched

The salmon and I were leaping for joy at the prospect of spending a jolly few weeks on the Findhorn – though on second thoughts we probably had different motives.

There is nothing that comes even close in salmon perfection to the Scottish wild variety. Its texture, colour and above all flavour cannot be beaten. I could not wait to get my hands on one and there was poetic beauty in knowing it was hatched, matched (with a sauce) and dispatched in pretty much the same spot.

I had to restrain myself from shooing the fishermen out of the lodge in the morning to maximise their time on the river bank, though I was delighted that a few of the first jolly group of 18 were up and out before breakfast and even returned for some late night fishing when the light is said to be particularly good for the sport.

This year there is a 70 per cent catch and release policy with anything caught over 9 lb, basically meaning you need to catch two before you can keep one. The tradition is to beep the horn of your 4 x 4 as you pull up to the lodge if you have been successful. For our first group it was also the signal to dash out with a wee dram (it was G and T’s if you returned empty netted so a pretty win-win situation if you ask me).

The second group who came to fish had rather a turn in the weather (the sun came out) and a drop in the river, making it harder sport. It did however make it perfect conditions for their barbecue lunches on the river banks.

travfoodsalmon4Relatively obsessed (OK totally) with barbecues, over my years as a chef and opinionated eater I have formed firm ideas –

If you have a gas one, really don’t bother, just cook inside. You are adding very little in terms of flavour to your meal, they rarely stay hot enough, unless you keep closing the lid, in which case you are basically cooking it in a gas oven. I could rant on… No, it has to be charcoal.

Mastering the smoky flavour giving intense heat is a satisfying thing. Learning to successfully light, maintain and use the heat is an art. I confess one rainy day, two packs of firelighters and two weeks worth of Sunday Times were invaluable.

Over the week I would do some prep in the lodge kitchen, load the Range Rover chock-a-block with food, drinks, tables and charcoal and head to the assigned fishing hut (you can watch videos of week on my instgram feed). Upon arrival the Range Rover would get unloaded, a makeshift outdoor kitchen erected, the table laid and the barbecue lit.

Guests would be welcomed with a tin cup of soup then a grill themed lunch would follow. Over the week they had fillets and legs of estate venison, grilled crispy skinned chicken, pork chops, whole bass, bream, squid and of course wild salmon.

Packing for these barbecues was like a memory game – you couldn’t forget anything and if you did, well, you had to get creative. The week confirmed my approach that with barbecues, simple is generally best and at bare minimum all I really needed to remember to pack was:

travfoodsalmon3The meat or fish
Olive oil
A lemon
And some fresh herbs.

Sauces are always important as you generally don’t create much gravy/juice so jars of fresh horseradish, salsa verde, chilli sauce, home made mayonnaise and tartar sauce came out each day.

One of my favourite foods I cooked over the week, besides the grilled and whole foil-baked salmon was the fresh flatbreads

Barbecued Flatbread

Makes about 8 large circles. You can knead and rest the dough then transport it to the riverbank/barbecue to grill.

travfoodsalmon500g white bread flour plus a few handfuls extra for rolling
2 tsp. dried yeast
1 tsp. fine sea salt
300ml – 350ml warm water
1 tbs. runny honey
1 tbs olive oil plus a little extra
1 tbs plain yogurt
2 -3 tbs of sprinkles e.g. sumac, poppy seeds, zaatar or cumin.

In a large bowl mix the flour and sea salt. In a jug stir the yeast into 300ml of the water with the honey, leave for 5 minutes (it should have started to foam) then pour into the flour and start to mix.

Add the olive oil and yogurt and knead on a clean surface for about 10 minutes. The dough should be quite wet, so if it feels stiff add a little more warm water.

When smooth and elastic place it back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to double in size, this will take about an hour in a warm kitchen. I then took the bowl to the river bank and rolled my flatbreads there.

travfoodsalmon6To roll the flatbread make sure you have a hot clean grill. Roll all the dough into equal sized balls (in-between a golf and a tennis ball is good). Lightly flour the surface and one by one roll the balls into circles about 2 – 3 mm thick. Lightly brush one side with olive oil and then scatter on your choice of sprinkle (my current favourite is sumac mixed with ground cumin). Grill on both sides for a couple of minutes till golden and serve as soon as possible.

If doing a batch you can lightly warp them in foil and give them a quick flash on the barbecue to warm them up. These are delicious with juicy grilled meats, vegetables or fish or with dipping sauces like labneh, hummus etc.