MD Forman & Son Lance Forman has a thing for smoked salmon


- Credit: Carmen Valino - on shift

In recent years, as I have met people and explained to them what it is I do for a living, I hear them say: “You know what? I can’t recall the last time I ordered smoked salmon in a restaurant”. “Why?”, I ask. “Because it’s not very nice, is it?” And they are often right.

This once great gourmet food people would ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over is now ‘ummed’ and ‘erred’ over with diners wondering why this ubiquitous pink flesh is either swimming in pools of grease or tastes like that glass of drink you picked up at a party which someone had dropped their cigarette ash into.

Smoked salmon did not become one of the great gastronomic wonders of the western world through the 20th century because it was an acquired taste like smelly blue cheese. It was because you would put a slice in your mouth and your palate would instantly tell your brain this is really delicious and you’d want to dive into the next slice. It became this delectable delicacy because the original salmon smokers, like my great grandfather, I hasten to add with ancestral pride, managed to find a way to preserve the flavour of the king of fish, Scottish wild salmon, so that it could be enjoyed and preserved in an age when refrigeration was basic. It was all about the quality and freshness of the salmon, not about the smoke. Most smoked salmon nowadays is mass produced and producers aren’t using such fresh fish. Most salmon sold in the UK comes from Norway, as it’s cheaper, rather than Scotland and so is always a good few days less fresh. To conceal the fustier flavour, too much smoke is added, but smoke can be bitter, so sugar is added and there should never be sugar in smoked salmon. This is just one of the many tricks used to make smoked salmon cheaper, and in my view has ruined the good name of this former fine food. So when you decide to give it another go this Christmas check whether there’s sugar in the ingredients and if so don’t order it.

Have a ‘London Cure’ festive season and enjoy. More from Lance