Stéphane Robin smiled enthusiastically: “You must let us know if you try any of the recipes.”
I was sitting in a reception room at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud at an early hour perusing a copy of “Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud: The First Thirty Years” while around me, preparations were getting underway for the official launch of the book later that day. Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud is Ireland’s only two star Michelin establishment, an honour that it has held for almost 16 years, and Stéphane, the longtime manager of the restaurant, and founder Patrick Guilbaud had paused to chat informally about the book in between attending to the various tasks that comprised the business of, what was for them, a very special day.
“I’d love to try something from the book,” I had said in reply to Stéphane and – while I meant it, I really did – I also found myself wondering if the book might contain anything recipe-wise that could be classed as easy. Fat chance. Easy is not a term one one should expect to apply to cooking at two Michelin star level, and the 40 or so recipes in this book are the real deal. You won’t find recipes that have been dumbed down for home use but, rather, a genuine attempt to commit to paper instructions for accurately recreating some of the restaurant’s signature dishes. That’s just how Patrick wanted it.
As with the restaurant itself, attention to detail guided the production of this book, and much like the food at Guilbaud’s, the volume is a beauty to behold, in addition to having a rich and colourful story to tell. From the early days of the restaurant, when customers were famously aghast at the lack of salt and pepper on the tables and (worse still) at the fact that potatoes were not served with every meal, through to its establishment as a Dublin institution, the story is also one of changing Irish tastes and expanding Irish palates. It’s well worth acquiring for anyone with space on their coffee tables for a slice of Irish restaurant history, as well as for those who might aspire to reproduce a bit of Michelin-starred magic at home.
Salmon With Tandoori Gnocchi And Sorrel Sauce
With the intention of making good my expressed desire to recreate a dish from the Guilbaud’s book, I had earmarked a recipe for fillet of salmon with tandoori gnocchi and sorrel sauce on the basis that (a) I rather fancied I could cook a piece of salmon and (b) gnocchi were at least somewhat familiar territory. I soon figured out that my attempted re-creation would be nowhere near exact.
The thing is, of course, that recipes for restaurant use are, by their very nature, different to recipes for home use in terms of quantities, equipment, ingredients and the skills they may expect or assume the reader to have. The biggest case in point in this instance was when I re-read my chosen recipe and finally registered the fact that it called for the fish to be cooked in a water bath – and not, I might add, the kind that I have in my bathroom. Still, I persevered and, though I knew the texture of the fish would be different, I made do with my oven. I wouldn’t be reaching any dizzying Michelin-starred heights this time ’round, that was clear (the presentation alone would need work, not to mind everything else) but I figured I could still learn a lot by trying.
- gnocchi (see recipe below)
- sorrel sauce (see recipe below)
- 125g salmon fillet, per person
- fine salt
- Maldon salt (or another coarse salt)
- tandoori spice (see gnocchi recipe below)
- soft fresh herbs to garnish (e.g. dill, parsley, …)
You’ll also need:
- A water bath to cook the salmon, if you should have such a thing, otherwise I reckon your oven will do, plus a hand blender or whisk for the sorrel sauce.
- Prepare the gnocchi and the sorrel sauce (recipes below).
- If you have access to a water bath for cooking purposes, then preheat it to 56C, seal each piece of salmon in a vacuum bag with some fine salt and a small knob of butter and cook in the water bath for 12 minutes. Rest for 3 minutes, then carefully remove the skin, season the top side with Maldon salt and keep warm.
- Alternatively, preheat your oven to 150C. Place the salmon fillets on a baking tray, sprinkle with some salt and a small knob of butter. Bake until just cooked through, 15-20 minutes depending on thickness. Remove the skin (or not as you prefer) and sprinkle with some Maldon salt.
- To serve: warm the gnocchi in a pan with a pinch of the tandoori spice and some butter emulsion (which is water or stock which has been heated, and to which a knob of butter has been added and whisked through).
- Place the salmon on a plate, top each fillet with 3-4 gnocchi (and, though it’s not the Guilbaud way, you could serve more gnocchi on the side). Give the sorrel sauce a whizz with a hand blender and spoon over the top. Garnish with fresh herbs.
- What I have cooked is already, inevitably, a variation of the real thing – I’d be inclined, in this case, to try to get the original right (or as close to right as possible) before going on any (other) major tangents.
- Each thusly prepared salmon fillet serves one.
Quantity-wise, this recipe probably produces enough gnocchi to adorn 10 or so Guilbaud-style salmon fillets (as only 3-4 gnocchi are specified per serving). However, you could, I think, always choose to serve up more gnocchi with each plate – I, for one, wouldn’t complain – in which case this probably makes enough for 4 servings.
The other thing to note is that the Guilbaud recipe called for a quantity of tandoori spice, which is, in itself, a spice mix that may have different formulations. I took a stab at making my own tandoori spice though (given that I’ve never had this dish at Guilbaud’s) I can’t really say how it compares to that used in the restaurant. One thing it doesn’t have (and which is common in tandoori formulae) is vibrant red food colouring, but I figured I could live without that.
For the tandoori spice:
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 0.5 tsp cayenne pepper
- 0.5 tsp nutmeg
- 0.25 tsp gnd cinnamon
For the gnocchi:
- 500g potatoes, preferably a floury variety
- coarse salt
- 100g flour, preferably 00 pasta flour
- 50g parmesan, finely grated
- 10g melted butter
- 1 egg, beaten
- tandoori spice (see above)
You’ll also need:
- A potato ricer is useful, though not essential, for mashing the potato
- To make the spice mix, toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a small pan over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until fragrant. Grind using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder and mix with the cayenne pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon and set aside.
- Preheat your oven to 200C
- Scrub the potatoes, prick all over with a fork. Scatter a baking tray with coarse salt, place the potatoes on the salt and bake until fork tender – this could take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour or more, depending on size.
- Split each potato in two and scoop out the flesh. Push the flesh through a potato ricer into a bowl, or mash well using a masher or a fork if you don’t have a ricer.
- To the still warm potatoes, add the flour, parmesan, melted butter, egg and about 2 tsp of the tandoori spice (keeping aside a small amount for finishing the gnocchi later). Mix to a soft, pliable dough – if the dough feels a bit damp add a little more flour as needed.
- Break off pieces of the dough and roll into logs around the thickness of your thumb. Then cut the logs into pieces around 2cm long (the Guilbaud recipe specifies a weight of 15g for each piece). Using plenty of flour so that the pieces don’t stick, press each piece against the inside of a fork, so that it forms little ridges on one side. Alternatively, if you have such a thing as a gnocchi paddle then by all means use it.
- Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Cook the gnocchi in batches, dropping the pieces into the boiling water and waiting until shortly after they float back up to the top of the pot (this should only take a couple of minutes). Then remove with a slotted spoon, refresh in iced water and reserve until needed.
- The obvious thing to vary here is the spicing – if I had any inkling about the nature of the tandoori spice used by Guilbaud’s, I’d certainly try that out.
- Around regular 4 dinner servings of gnocchi or perhaps 10 or so Guilbaud-style servings with the salmon above
As with the gnocchi, I would estimate that the quantity of sauce made by this recipe is enough to dress maybe 10 or so of the Guilbaud salmon fillets (though if you wanted to serve more gnocchi on each plate (as suggested above), you’d probably also allow a little more sauce per serving also).
The Guilbaud’s recipe for this very butter-rich sauce calls for the use Bordier butter, a rather highly regarded French product. Not having such a thing, I used good old Irish butter instead.
The recipe also calls for reducing a quantity of fish stock, though it doesn’t specify by how much, so I hedged my bets and reduced it by around half.
- 200ml fish stock
- 50g sorrel leaves
- 200g butter
- a few drops of lemon juice, to taste
- salt, to taste
- Place the fish stock in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to a boil, then simmer for around 15 minutes or until reduced by about half.
- Add the sorrel leaves to the stock, remove from the heat and leave to sit for 2-3 minutes.
- Strain the stock into a clean pan and return to the heat. Whisk in the butter a little at a time. Adjust the seasoning with lemon juice (though just a few drops, otherwise you may overpower the tang of the sorrel) and salt and keep warm until required.
- Makes around 300ml of sauce