Exploring Orkney's larder - a festive favourite

Discover new tastes and recipes from Orkney's food and drink producers.

Our regular food blogger Rosemary Moon takes a look at a festive feast with a difference. Keep reading find out more and taste-test another special recipe.

A whole side of smoked salmon...there’s luxury in abundance!

Once the initial excitement of extracting the hand-sliced side from the cocoon of wrapping that has kept it chilled to your door has passed, there’s the task of fitting it into your already-groaning Christmas fridge. But fit it will - you can always bend the cardboard a bit, near to the tail end of the pack.

A side of Orkney salmon is a treat indeed. Our waters are whipped up by some of the strongest oceanic currents around the British Isles, resulting in fish with lean, firm flesh that readily take the flavour of a curing brine and the traditional smoking process. Three companies smoke salmon in Orkney. Pierowall Fish in Westray use Scapa whisky in their process and their Westray salmon can be ordered through Judith Glue. Humes Artisan Smokers do not advertise their cold smoked salmon on their website as their production is small, but they are the darlings of Saturday Kitchen this year and you can contact them directly to see if they are able to supply you - but don’t leave it too late.

The largest of Orkney’s smoked salmon suppliers is Jolly's of Orkney. I sent a side from them to a food writer friend for a big birthday in June and she was so delighted with it that she ordered another side for the August Bank Holiday. What further recommendation do you need? Jolly’s supply salmon with a plain cure or, for added Orkney flavour, try their Highland Park whisky or Kirkjuvagr gin editions.

A side of salmon might be between 700 and 1200g - that’s quite a lot of fish, so what are you going to do with it all? There’s the obvious - smoked salmon on brown bread and butter with black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Simple and enduringly popular. Or scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for Christmas breakfasts or lunchtime snacks. Have the salmon arranged on the plate before the eggs start to thicken in the pan (or microwave) or the eggs will overcook before you have the salmon slices separated and plated. A parsley garnish is always a good idea if you have been eating garlic the night before - it’s the best palette cleanser of all.

A more substantial snack than on brown bread cut into squares is a smorgasbord of crispbreads with different Christmas toppings: ham with remoulade (grated celeriac in a mustard and garlic mayo), cold beef with pickles and/or horseradish cream, and smoked salmon, shredded for ease of eating, on soured cream or creme fraiche with cranberry sauce. All simple but delicious ideas and good ways of using up Christmas sauces. And if you are in a Scandi mood, don’t forget to order a bottle of Orkney Akvavit from the Orkney Gin Company - that or a cold Orkney beer are perfect smorgasbord accompaniments.

I do love a crispy salad after the excesses of a rich Christmas roast. Red cabbage keeps really well in a cold place if the fridge is full, so if you braise some for the Christmas roast do keep a wedge back for the following day. Shred it, add diced onion and sliced celery, chopped dried cranberries (or left-over cranberry sauce) and a can of green lentils, drained, and then toss everything with salt, pepper and chopped parsley. Dress the salad with vinaigrette or just a tasty olive oil and serve with smoked salmon and lemon, and oatcakes or bread.

For a party, a good way to make 200g of salmon feed a lot of friends is to make a roulade. This is easier than it sounds and is inspired by the smoked salmon wrapped around tasteless rubbery cheese canapés that you can buy at Christmas in many supermarkets. I have never understood their appeal as the cheese ruins the fish. However, what do I know, because they keep hitting the shelves, year after year. I do think my version is better and worth the noise of the mixer whisk beating the eggs! Serve alone, or on an oatcake spread with a little soured cream. The new oatcakes from Baikie’s are a perfect size for the slices.

Smoked salmon and spinach roulade

Ingredients (cuts into 12-15 slices)

  • 100g small spinach leaves or watercress
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • Salt, freshly ground black pepper and a small grating of fresh nutmeg
  • 4 large eggs
  • 200g tub full fat soft or cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp creme fraiche or mayonnaise
  • Good handful parsley and/or tarragon
  • 2-3 gherkins
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 8-10 slices smoked salmon, 200-250g


  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 7, 220°C (200°C fan oven). Line a Swiss roll tin, approx 23 x 30cm with baking parchment.
  2. Chop the spinach or watercress very finely, then mix it with the flour and seasonings.
  3. Whisk the eggs, starting slowly and then quickly, until pale and thick. This will take several minutes, even with a mixer. The whisk should leave a thick trail in the stiff mix when it is ready. Carefully fold in the finely chopped floury spinach until it is evenly combined. This is best done by hand with a wire whisk. Tip into the prepared tin and level it gently. Bake for 10 minutes. Don’t be disappointed when the roulade is cooked, it will be thinner than when it went in to the oven.
  4. Line a cooling rack with baking parchment then invert it over the cooked roulade in the tin, turn them over and remove the tin and the lining paper carefully from the roulade. Roll the roulade up from the long side using the fresh paper to help you and rolling the paper inside the sponge so that you can unroll it easily. Leave until cool.
  5. Prepare the filling while the roulade is cooling. Beat the soft cheese with the mayo. Finely chop the herbs and add them to the cheese with some salt and pepper. Roughly chop the gherkins then add the capers and continue until quite finely chopped.
  6. Unroll the cooled roulade but leave it on the parchment. Arrange the slices of smoked salmon all over the roulade and right to the edges, then scatter the gherkins and capers evenly over it. Splodge the cream cheese mix evenly along the length of the filling. Using the parchment to help, roll the roulade up quite firmly. Chill on the ‘join’, still wrapped in the paper, for 2 hours or more.
  7. Serve in thin slices, about 1cm thick, by itself as a fork canapé or starter, on an oatcake, or with hot buttered toast and a little salad garnish.

Rosemary Moon ‘retired’ to Orkney after a long association with the salmon industry in the islands. The author of 19 cookery books and countless more recipes, including writing for Waitrose and Lakeland, she has brought journalists and food writers to Orkney in the past to show off our diverse and delicious food and drink. After several holidays here Rosemary and her husband Nick have settled in South Ronaldsay but, once a cookery writer always a cookery writer, Rosemary is finding it impossible to stop jotting down the new recipes that she is creating with the island produce.

Rosemary also writes and vlogs about whisky and is particularly interested in whisky and food matching. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram and on her website at rosemarymoon.com.

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