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There are some plates of food that when presented in front of you you are a little bit sceptical that the dish will actually taste good. This dish, being predominately grey and black with only a splattering of green and white from the spring onions and the delicate pink from the salmon, is a case in point. You are going to have to trust me on this one when I say that this meal is seriously delicious. It also ridiculously quick (I know I know I say that with most of the dishes I put up on my blog) – it takes the amount of time that you cook your salmon in the oven – 15 minutes.

 

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Black sesame seeds may require a bit of effort to hunt down – I found mine at my local Asian grocers, but other than that you should be able to get hold of the rest of the ingredients pretty easily. If you don’t have tamari, just use soy sauce – they are very similar.

 

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I ate mine with a hot cup of fresh lemon verbena tea, which I have become rather addicted to since I was sweetly given a bag full of the stuff last weekend. Have you tried it before? Does anyone grow it in their gardens? Is it easy to maintain? I’d love to know as lemon verbena has a wonderful aroma and taste.

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I hope you get to try this dish very soon. I adore buckwheat soba noodles – I tend to buy the Clearspring variety – they look like this. They’re wheat free noodles, low in fat and a great source of protein and fibre. Go on give this dish a go and leave me a comment below.

 

Black Sesame Paste Soba Noodles with Salmon and Spring Onions

Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s ‘Super Natural Everyday’ – Black Sesame Otsu

Serves 4

black sesame seed paste

1 tsp sunflower seeds

1 tsp pine nuts

60g black sesame seeds

1 1/2 tbsp demerara sugar

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 1/2 tbsp tamari/soy sauce

2 tbsp brown rice vinegar

pinch of cayenne pepper

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350g buckwheat soba noodles

4 salmon fillets – skin removed (optional)

3 spring onions, finely sliced

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

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1. Preheat your oven (I use a fan oven – if you are not increase the temperature by 10 degrees) to 180 degrees. Equally you can steam the salmon if you prefer. Using a cooking brush gently wipe each salmon fillet with sesame oil. Place in a non stick dish and cook for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a frying pan dry roast, on a low heat, the pine nuts and sunflower seeds for a couple of minutes so they begin to bronze. You will need to keep moving the pan to prevent burning. As the pine nuts begin to bronze add the black sesame seeds and move them around the pan for a minute. Transfer to a spice grinder (or pestle and mortar).

3. After whizzing the ingredients for 10-15 seconds so that they are properly blended, transfer the paste into a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients to make the black sesame paste. Place to one side.

4. Place the soba noodles in a pan of boiling water and cook according to instructions – should be around 5 minutes on a low heat. Before draining save 100ml of the noodle water and leave in a jug. Drain the soba noodles and run under cold water to prevent further cooking. Before adding the soba noodles to the black sesame paste, remove 1/4 of the paste and place in a separate cup. Add the soba noodles to the large mixing bowl with the remaining black sesame paste, the 100ml of noodle water, extra virgin olive oil and almost all of the spring onions and gently stir into the paste.

5. Serve a generous portion of noodles to each bowl or plate and place the salmon fillet on top along with a dollop of remaining black sesame paste which you have reserved and a scattering of spring onions.

It can be eaten at warm, room temperature or cold. You can replace the salmon with trout or even with tofu gently fried. It would in fact make an original and tasty lunch box alternative.

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A couple of weeks ago I was approached on behalf of Maison Maille the purveyor of fine mustards, oils and vinegars, who have been in existence since 1747 and who have recently opened their first London store at 2 Piccadilly Arcadeto be part of the ‘Maille Culinary Challenge‘. It’s open for food blogger and food reviewers and as such I thought I would throw myself into the challenge and create a dish using one of their products in a recipe that I have devised especially for them and which I hope my readers will try and make.

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The recipes entered will be judged on four main criteria: creativity, originality, taste and visual appeal. I hope the curry I have created ticks all the boxes and in addition is easy for others to attempt to make at home. There is nothing more frustrating when you see a fabulous recipe but to create it involves so many steps and ingredients that it actually puts you off.  I want my recipes to be user friendly and to actually encourage people to cook and try new flavours and tastes. There is a whole flavour universe out there waiting to be sampled so be courageous and follow the simple steps below to try this recipe.

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Using mustards, in fish curries in particular, is very common in Bengal where my husband originates from and so I thought that would be a good starting point when coming up with a recipe. I was immediately attracted to the mustard that had coconut and Colombo spices as I thought that they would work really well in a curry. Unlike some coconut curries, which are very creamy, this curry is far more delicate and light and perfect for spring time. I was also conscious not to suppress the wonderful flavours of the mustard, so chose a range of ingredients that I believe complement the mustard perfectly. I hope you agree. Do leave a comment below and let me know what you think. Let’s see what the judges say. Fingers crossed!

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Mustard, Coconut and Colombo Spices Salmon Curry

Serves 4

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp nigella seeds

2 green chillies, halved lengthways

10 fresh curry leaves (or dried if you cannot find fresh)

15g of fresh ginger, cut into wafer thin batons

2 spring onions, sliced at an angle

1 tsp ground turmeric

600g salmon fillets (5 pieces)

200ml boiling water

2 tsp Maille Noix de Coco et Spices Colombo

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp caster sugar

1. Gently heat a wide deep pan or karahi with 3 tbsp of vegetable oil. When it is hot add the nigella seeds and move them around the pan and then immediately add the fresh chilli, curry leaves and turmeric. Stir together and then add the ginger and spring onions. Toss in the pan for a minute.

2. Add the salmon fillets – skin side down – and leave them to gently bronze for a further minute. Do not keep touching them as you do not want them to break up.

3. Mix the Maille Noix de Coco et Spices Colombo with 200ml of boiling water and stir thoroughly. Add to the pan so that the salmon fillets are virtually covered.

4. Add the salt and caster sugar and stir gently into the sauce. Spoon some of the liquid onto the salmon and then place a lid on the pan and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Continue to spoon the liquid onto the salmon fillets a couple of times during the ten minutes. (Depending on the thickness of your salmon the fillets should be cooked by ten minutes. If, when gently cutting into the fillet, it looks a little pink leave for a further couple more minutes with the lid on the pan).

Serve with basmati rice.

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If you are not going to be in London town anytime soon you can order from Maille online HERE if you are based in the UK or France. A few products are on the US site which you can find HERE with more to be added next year.

Thank you to Maille for kindly providing me with the mustard for this post and also the ‘sweet apricot and curry mustard’, which I hope to use in a new recipe soon. 

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Up in my old neck of the woods there is a fantastic restaurant that I love to visit whilst catching up with friends. It goes by the name of Granger & Co, owned by the Australian chef Bill Granger. Bizarrely I have never purchased or been given any of Bill’s cookbook (sorry Bill – take note friends and family ;o) but if any of the dishes at his restaurant are to go by I really ought to get my hands on some copies. The restaurant is always heaving and it’s important to note that they don’t take reservations, so it is always best to go with plenty of time in hand as there may be a wait – max I have ever waited was 20 mins.

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The other day my lunch companion and I were seated to a table immediately – we were in luck – and then cast our eyes over the menu, which quite frankly has all the types of dishes that I would like to eat in a restaurant. Delicate, fresh, exotic, great flavour combinations and healthy, the menu appeals to anyone with a love of food and flavours.  I actually found it hard to make a decision as there were so many things that appealed. I opted for a Vietnamese inspired salmon salad – mainly for two reasons: firstly I have a bit of a ‘thing’ going on for Vietnamese cuisine at the moment which you’ve probably noticed and secondly I was curious to see how the dished compared to those I actually ate in Vietnam recently. It was also light and healthy, which was a bonus!

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It is no exaggeration but every mouthful was an utter delight. Making a mental note of what I was eating I was determind to replicate a similar dish at home and share it with you. I don’t know exactly what Bill used in the dressing but I have made my own twist on the dish. I have cooked it many times since and the response has been really positive. Aside from the red grapefruit, even my seven year old  really loves the dish. As alternative you could always replace the red grapefruit with fresh mango.

Vietnamese inspired Salmon, Cucumber, Red Onion and Grapefruit Salad

Serves 4

4 salmon fillets

2 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tbsp runny honey

1 tbsp sesame oil

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2 cucumber, sliced at diagonal angles (see photos)

1 red onion, finely sliced

1 red grapefruit, chopped into bite sized pieces

200g trimmed fine green beans

1 large handful of fresh coriander

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2 tbsp mirin

2 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tbsp caster sugar

2 limes, juice only

1. In a bowl place the salmon fillets and add the soy sauce and runny honey and using your hands coat the salmon pieces and leave to marinade in the fridge for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat your oven to 170 degrees.

3. In a frying pan heat the sesame oil and when hot add the salmon skin side down to begin with. Literally allow to bronze slightly for a minute and then turn over gently and leave for another minute. You want to have it so the outside is delicated bronzed but not cooked all the way through. It can begin to turn a lighter pink but you want the remainder of the cooking to take place in an oven gently.

4. Spread out a large piece of  tin foil and place the salmon pieces in the centre, making sure not to break them up. Add the remaining marinade from the bowl over the salmon.  Now you need to create a Papillote effect. It’s very straightforward – all you need to do is create a salmon parcel making sure all the foil edges are closed up so that no air can escape and there is some space above the salmon so don’t enclose it too tightly.

5. Place the salmon parcel in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, by which stage it will have be cooked through and ready to crumble gently on the salad.

6. Whilst the salmon is cooking steam the green beans for a minute or two. You want to make sure they continue to have a good crunch but that the bite is taken off a little with the steaming. Equally you could boil them for a minute and then drain under cold water.

7. Add the green beens to the cucumber, red onion, red grapefruit, fresh coriander and place a good helping on eat plate.

9. Add the mirin, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, caster sugar and lime juice to create the marinade. Taste to check you have the right balance for you.

8. When the salmon is ready remove from the oven. Gently remove the skin, which will come away easily and place a salmon fillet on the top of each salad, allowing it to crumble slightly. Pour a little of the marinade over the fish and salad and serve immediately. Place the remaining marinade in a small jug for guests to add more should they wish.

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Speedy Salmon Curry

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Exhausted after a long day, with little energy or inclination to cook a complex dish, with lots of marinating and blending? We’ve all been there right? Well this curry works a treat and literally takes as long as it does to boil rice. I’m serious. It’s a staple dish in my household and is always guaranteed to raise spirits and smile.

I do always have the ingredients in stock mind you, as I keep industrial quantities of turmeric, cumin powder, coriander powder, chilli powder and nigella seeds in my store cupboard and in my fridge there are always chillies of differing strengths.

Its really healthy (other than the little oil perhaps) and if you leave out the chilli and chilli powder it can work well as a family dish.

I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quick and easy this dish is and yet tastes really moreish. I’ve cooked it for years and only really use the recipe in my head, so this has been a useful exercise to actually write down exactly what I do.

Let me know how you get on.


Speedy Salmon Curry

Serves 4

700g salmon, cut into manageable portions

2 tbsp mustard/vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tsp nigella seeds

1 small tsp of  turmeric powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

2 fresh chilli, chopped in half (more if you like it hot)

half tsp chilli powder (or 1 whole tsp if you like your chilli)

1.5 inches ginger, peeled and grated

3 dried curry leaves (or bay leaves)

3/4 (three quarters) tin tomatoes

150ml water

1 tsp salt

handful of fresh coriander

1. Cut the salmon pieces into manageable sized portions and put to one side.

2. Warm the mustard oil (or vegetable oil if you do not have mustard oil to hand). When it is hot, gently fry the onions until they begin to brown. At this point add the nigella seeds, fresh chilli, turmeric, chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, grated ginger, curry leaves and salt and stir for 20 seconds.

3. Add three quarters of a tin of chopped tomatoes and 100ml of water and mix all the ingredients together.

4. Gently place the salmon pieces, with the skin facing upwards, into the sauce and let it simmer for 5 minutes.

5. Then using a spoon turn the salmon pieces over and add a further 50ml of water if necessary. It will only need a couple of minutes. If you prefer a thicker sauce add less water and vice versa. Its really not an exact science and more down to personal taste.

6. Serve with roughly chopped fresh coriander and a bowl of rice. If you are serving for a dinner with friends my red split lentil dal would go well.

So in about ten minutes you have a delicious tasting and super easy Indian curry.

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Bob Blumer

Maple-icious Salmon and Corn

I was beginning to think that I would never find a suitable Canadian chef that was bursting with personality and original ideas, whose cookery book I could purchase, pour over and trial one of their recipes for my blog. I had asked a number of Vancoverites (is that what they are known as?) who their version of ‘Jamie Oliver’ was and I was always given the same blank response, often followed by the murmurings that they really don’t cook that much.

My luck changed when I was browsing through the cookery section of  ‘Chapters’, Canada’s version of ‘Waterstones’. I asked a fellow browser what Canadian chefs they rated and as chance would have it, this fellow browser happened to also be a food blogger who was a big Jamie Oliver fan, to the extent that her blog -myyearwithjamieoliver.com is focused solely on his cooking. Lorina, the fellow blogger, came up with Michael Smith and Bob Blumer, both of which are Canadian TV chefs. Whilst both books looked appealing, Bob Blumer’s really stood out for me. It was refreshingly original with bold, bright and slightly quirky photos of his food creations, some of which are definitely surreal; he clearly has a great sense of humour. His cook book is unique and whilst I have never seen him on the screen or let alone heard of him, you can tell that he is a kindred spirit, does not take himself too seriously and is passionate about cooking, but not in a meticulously fussy and pedantic way like some chefs. I was also sold on buying the book from a comment on the back which read: “If Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson and Salvador Dali had a menage a trois, this would be their love child.” It made me laugh and intrigued enough to find out more about Canada’s culinary guru.

Glutton for Pleasure by Bob Blumer

His recipes are definitely different. Anyone for chocolate wontons, meatloaf surprise – which is a meatloaf disguised as a birthday cake, maple bacon-crunch ice cream, beer can chicken, licorice shrimp? Most of his recipes are perhaps not for those who like to count their calories, but hats off to the guy for his originality.

Seeing that I am in Canada I thought that ‘Maple-icious Salmon’ was the perfect recipe to share with you all as maple syrup is seriously big over here. I also found some fabulous red and yellow corn on the cob at Granville Market to add a vibrant splash of colour to the dish.

Red and Yellow Corn on the Cob

I decided to pair up the salmon and corn with Bob’s ‘Pomegranate, Orange and Lettuce Salad’, which I felt created the perfect balance.

Having cooked both dishes I can honestly say that the maple-icious salmon is ABSOLUTELY DIVINE. I marinated the salmon for a whole day but as long as you can marinate it in the fridge for 4 hours or more you’ll be fine. Its an absolute winner and Big A (my eldest daughter who is 5 yrs old) and my sister and her beau all gave it a definite thumbs up. The red corn went a rather pale hue after cooking and tasted pretty much the same as yellow. It did not look so good on the plate so I omitted it from the photos, although enjoyed eating it all the same.

The salad was fresh and exciting and the dressing really gave it its edge. Bob uses mache (also called lamb’s lettuce) or Boston Lettuce. I used the latter which was fine, but I think when I prepare it again I will use fresh spinach leaves.

All in all a really fun and exciting meal with ingredients I don’t usually pair together. I can’t wait to try out more of Bob’s recipes. Let me know how you get on!

Canadian maple syrup

Maple-icious Salmon 

Serves 4

185ml/ 3/4 cup of maple syrup

60ml/ 1/4 cup soy sauce

175g/7oz salmon filets, skin removed (I cooked slightly more per person but I guess I am a little piggy!)

60ml/ 1/4 cup of coarsely ground black pepper

1. In a bowl mix the maple syrup and soy sauce. Add the salmon fillets, so that the marinade completely covers the fish. Place in the fridge for as long as possible, ideally for 24 hours, but not less than 4 hours. Turn the salmon every few hours.

2. Preheat the grill to 180 degrees centigrade. I put the salmon directly on the metal grate so as to give the grill mark effect.

3. Place pepper on a plate and place the marinated salmon onto the pepper, on only one side. Once you have done this to all the pieces place on to the metal grate and grill for 10-15 minutes or until the flesh is firm. I did this in a grill oven, but it would work just as well, if not better, on a gas grill or charcoal grill.

Maple-icious Salmon

4. Serve with corn on the cob and pomegranate, orange and lettuce salad. If you are requiring carbs then rice would work really well.

A really charming aspect of Bob’s book is that he pairs his recipes with ‘music to cook by’. For this recipe he suggests ‘The Cocteau Twins, Heaven or Las Vegas. Ethereal music to marinate your mind’, according to Bob!

Pomegranate, Orange and Lettuce Salad

Serves 4

1 litre/4 cups of mache (lambs lettuce), boston lettuce or spinach

1/2 a pomegranate or 1 decent handful

1 to 2 oranges, removed the skin and pith and cut into segments

salt and freshly ground pepper

Maple-Dijon Dressing

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp maple syrup

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

2 tsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tbsp of olive oil

1. Whisk together the mustard, maple syrup, vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil whisking continuously until it has emulsified.

2. Just before serving, combine the lettuce, pomegranate seeds and orange slices in a salad bowl. Add half of the dressing and toss gently but thoroughly. Put the remainder into a small jug so that you can add more dressing as required. Be careful not to overdress the salad. Season with salt and pepper.

Pomegranate and Lettuce Salad

‘Music to cook by’, Bob suggests ‘The Beatles, Love Classic Beatles tracks’.

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England is experiencing the ‘great flood’ take 2. Not literally of course, but after the great weather in April and May to say it has declined would be an understatement. Its Wimbledon week, the crowds are here and the grey clouds are looming large over London town. I feel sorry for the individuals responsible for rescheduling the matches so that they are all played in the two week Wimbledon window. Headache or what! But hey lets look on the bright side (us Brits are good at that) our reservoirs must be full again, there won’t be a hose pipe ban and our gardens are lush bright green.

So with all this wet weather I thought it was high tide (sorry I could not resist) to take a little trek across town to buy some of the tastiest eggs on the planet. If the sun refuses to come out in our skies then I will recreate it on the plate. Well that was my thinking.

There is this wonderful restaurant/brunch establishment, and grocery store in Maida Vale, called…..you guessed it, ‘Raoul’s‘. The brunch menu is heavenly and it is there that they serve and sell these wonderful eggs, which they source from Italy. They taste incredible and the yolks are so yellow I really wouldn’t be surprised if they had been injected with turmeric.

I stumbled across this little gem of a place years ago when I was looking for a place to live. I thought Maida Vale looked charming and villagey being nestled by ‘Little Venice’ and not far from Regents Park. When I stopped to gather my thoughts and look through the suggestions the estate agent had given me I refuelled in Raoul’s. It was a defining moment because I fell completely in love with this brunch hangout. With its wonderful eggs benedict royal and fresh fruit smoothies, I was sold. I decided there and then that the property I was going to live in HAD to be in walking distance of Raoul’s. I imagine it never crossed estate agents minds that something as simple as an eatery could convince someone to buy in an area. If I was to pin point it even further I think it was the eggs that won me over.

I think you kind of get my gist on how mind blowing these eggs are.

It wasn’t until I bought a dozen at the weekend that I actually decided to dig a little further and find out more about the eggs in question. All I knew was that they were from Italy. The packaging has changed since I was last there – which was quite a few years ago – and the eggs are imported by a company called ‘Machiavelli Foods‘, which focuses on importing food from Italy to London. On the packaging it says that the ‘hens are fed on a purely vegetarian diet of corn, grain and soy with marigolds and acorns added to help develop the rich and flavourful yolk’. So there you go folks if you want your hens to lay eggs with a deeper, rich, yellower colour, feed your hens marigolds and acorns. For those of you who keep hens let me know how you get on, I am really curious to see  if you notice a difference in the colour of your hens’ yolks. I genuinely would be interested to know.

I thought I would recreate eggs benedict royale for you to try at home. My hollandaise sauce recipe is fail proof  and super easy (I use a blender) so give it a try.

Hollandaise Sauce 

Serves 4

3 egg yolks

150 g unsalted butter

juice from half a lemon

pinch of salt (optional)

1. Separate 3 egg yolks from the whites. This is easy to accomplish by breaking the egg and then placing the yolk back and fourth between the two broken egg shell halves. Save the eggs whites for later on – you could make an egg white omelet.

2. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon onto the egg yolks, less if you prefer it less lemony. Add a pinch of salt at this stage, although I personally find it unnecessary if you are going to be using smoked salmon for the eggs benedict royale. Blend the egg yolk mixture for 20 seconds at a medium speed. It should appear slightly lighter in colour.

3. Slowly, and that is the key, heat up the butter, making sure not to let it boil.

4.  When the butter is melted, slowly add it to the egg mixture, continuing to blend (I use the pulse button at this stage)as you do so. The speed of the blender and the heat from the butter will heat the yolks slightly without them scrambling. Blend for a couple of seconds once all the butter has been incorporated into the mixture.

5. Taste the mixture and add more salt or lemon as you see fit. If you like a thinner consistency then add a little warm water and blend briefly.

6. Keep the hollandaise sauce warm until you are ready to use by placing the blender container or small bowl you have transfered it into, in a pan of hot tap water.  Use within 1 hour.

As well as eggs benedict royale, hollandaise sauce works really well over asparagus, broccoli, salmon (although that might be a bit 70’s!).

Eggs Benedict Royale

Serves 4

4 white muffins, toasted

4 eggs, poached

few drops of vinegar

cling film (to wrap the poach eggs in)

4 slices of smoked salmon

4 tbsp of hollandaise sauce (see above)

1. Prepare the hollandaise sauce first (see above) and put to one side in a warm place.

2. I have a number of ways to poach eggs but the method I am presently using is the one I saw my brother doing at Christmas when he was preparing brunch for the family. Basically you crack an egg over some cling film – enough so that you can gather the ends up easily and there is some left over (which you can place over the side of a pan). You must make sure that there is no air in the little cling film egg parcels. Place a few drops of vinegar with the egg. It is easy to poach many eggs at once like this by separating them into their own little cling film parcels.

3. Boil a pan of water and place the eggs into the boiling water. Leave for 2/3 minutes.

4. Meanwhile toast the muffins and then separate onto plates placing a slice of smoked salmon onto one half of the muffin. The extra half of muffin I leave to one side so as to mop up the hollandaise sauce and egg at the end.

5. Once the eggs are done, place them directly on top of the smoked salmon and then place a large tablespoon of the hollandaise sauce over the top.

6. Garnish options could be ground pepper, parsley or chives. I personally like to leave it plain as there are so many wonderful flavours coming from the dish already.

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