Autumn has arrived in Duncannon. It announced itself with a drop in temperature of 10 degrees, a cutting breeze that slices in from the sea and a cold drizzle forming puddles on the deck of our little yellow house.
The beach is quiet, just the occasional walker and his dog. Families have left their mobile homes and holiday houses and returned to their towns and cities. The Sandy Dock has served its last lemon meringue pie of the season, ending my summer ritual of coffee and cake after a long Sunday walk. The sand blows in drifts up the tiny main street, caught by the unexpected wind and hiding in corners and doorways as if trying to escape its fate. An occasional fishing boat docks at the harbour and unloads its catch, seagulls wheeling overhead. And suddenly, unexpectedly, the sun comes out again for a few minutes as if to say “Hello, fooled you there didn’t I!”
I love this time of year in Duncannon when the village is returned to its residents after the bustling trade of summer. The sand-scupltors and the kite-surfers have gone along with the knot of youngsters perched on the wall over-looking the beach eating ice creams from Peggy’s shop, the tables sprawled out onto the footpath outside Hal’s bar as friends drink pints and listen to the Sunday sounds of GAA matches echoing from within, the teenage girls, always in groups, wandering the beach road in shorts and sunburn, the cars parked bumper to bumper on the beach forming make shift wind-breakers as the sand gets into sandwiches and infants toddle the long trek to paddle at the water’s edge, the chatter, laughter and music from Roches’s Bar. All is now quiet.
Now is the time for us regular “blow-ins” to savour the silence, the ever-changing light and cloud formations over Hook Head, the walk interrupted only by a tractor bringing in the last of the harvest. Now is the time to layer up for the winter, cranking up the heating for a few hours when we arrive rather than rushing to open dormer windows to let the stuffy, warm air out and donning a rainproof jacket over an apron to cook outside on the Big Green Egg. Because I am determined that cooking on the Egg will be a year round thing, come hail, rain, shine or snow. It has to be. There won’t be room to cook the Christmas turkey inside this year with the entire family home including 10 visitors from China so I’d better get used to it.
So yesterday evening, when we arrived in Duncannon in the dark and rain, I put a cedar cooking plank in water to soak for an hour along with the broken up charred bits of the first Cedar plank I had used, lit the Big Green Egg and tried out a new recipe with the last of the wild salmon of the season.
I adapted the recipe from one I found in a book called Slow Fire by Dr. BBQ, that I had downloaded on Kindle, and served it with potatoes baked on the BGE and stir-fried tender-stem broccoli. The salmon, slow cooked at low temperature was a deep pink in colour and had picked up just a hint of smokiness from the cedar. It was firm but flaking and tender. The sweet, sour, salty, sticky glaze enhanced the delicate flavour of the fish and had us scraping the plank it was served on to savour every last drop. You can serve the plank straight to the table, just have something heat proof ready to rest it on. It makes for a dramatic and attractive presentation.
Whenever I give a Big Green Egg recipe I will suggest an alternative way of cooking it that doesn’t require access to an Egg. You could cook this recipe, for instance, on any BBQ that has a cover at any time of the year – just keep the temperature low and the time slow for the best result – and of course you can use any good quality salmon fillets. Leftover glaze will keep in the fridge and would also work well with pork and chicken.
Planked Salmon with Soy Honey Glaze
- 1 cedar cooking plank*
- 4 salmon fillets – about 600g to 700g in total
- Sea salt
For the glaze
- 125 ml hoisin sauce
- 2 tbs light soy sauce
- 2 ½ tbs runny honey
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- Black pepper
- Soak a cedar cooking plank for at least one hour (Butler’s Pantry recommend soaking theirs overnight).
- If you have a cedar plank that is charred from previous use, break it up into pieces and soak some of those pieces in water for at least an hour – this will enhance the hint of wood flavour in the salmon.
- Prepare the BGE for direct heat with the stainless steel grid and pre-heat to 120C. I used plain lumpwood rather than oak on this occasion so as not to overpower the delicate flavour of the wild salmon. When at temperature add a handful of the soaked cedar pieces allowing a little extra time for it to come back to temperature.
- Drain your plank and place your salmon pieces on the plank, skin side down and evenly spaced. Salt them lightly. Place the plank on the grid, close the BGE and cook for 30 minutes. You can pop scrubbed potatoes on the grid around the plank at the same time.
- Meanwhile make your glaze by combining all the ingredients and mixing well.
- After the fish has cooked for about 30 minutes, brush with a thick layer of the glaze, coating evenly. Cook for another 20 minutes.
- Spread more glaze over evenly and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes until the fish is firm.
- Serve immediately on the plank (although any leftovers also taste delicious cold).
*Available from A Room Outside or The Butler’s Pantry
Stir-fried Tender-stem Broccoli
- 350g tender-stem broccoli, ends trimmed
- 1 tbs finely chopped garlic
- 1 tbs finely chopped ginger
- About 100 ml chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 tbs light soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbs toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
- Groundnut oil for cooking
- Mix the stock and soy sauce in a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a wok over a medium-high heat and stir-fry the broccoli for about one minute to coat with oil.
- Clear a space in the middle of the broccoli and add a dash more oil. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for about 30 seconds to release their fragrance before mixing in with the broccoli.
- Add the stock and soy mixture to the pan, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat and cover. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the broccoli stems are tender but still firm.
- Remove the broccoli to a bowl with a slotted spoon and reduce the remaining liquid over a high heat to about 2 tablespoons. Add back the broccoli to heat through briefly. Turn off the heat, add a teaspoon of sesame oil and the sesame seeds (if using) and toss before serving in a warm dish.