Let’s Cook Salmon with Sandrena Brennan

Let's Cook, salmon recipe, I Love Bello Shire, Bellingen, Sandrena Brennan

Renowned local cook Sandrena Brennan has very generously shared her Salmon recipe, or we should say recipes- ‘Salmon Three Ways’.  Many Bellingen Shire locals and visitors to our region have benefited from Sandrena’s culinary skills over the years.  When she moved to Bellingen 22 years ago, she commenced teaching cooking from home, (through ACE), for 4 years.  “My first cooking class through ACE was all men.  They would cook up a storm and then we would sit down and eat their efforts with a glass or two of wine. The class would start at 10am and finish at 1pm, but often we were still enjoying our meal until 4pm.”

Sandrena’s next ‘food foray’ was ‘Cooking Around the World’, a course that became a Camp Creative fixture for the next 10 years.  “It was a fantastic 10 years. I loved every one of them. I met a lot of wonderful people with a real passion for cooking,” says Sandrena.  Sandrena and her assistant would diligently spend the days prior sourcing ingredients and lug more than 40 boxes of supplies into the Bellingen High School kitchen in preparation for 5 days of cooking instruction.  “Each day we would cook about  7 recipes, focusing on a different country each of the 5 days. After a few years, Camp Creative started a second class, as the cooking classes were so popular.”  Sandrena hung up her Camp Creative apron in 2010 for a well earned rest.

Sandrena’s earliest career was in fashion design.  She trained in the UK at the Croydon College of Art and worked at Susan Small in London, before emigrating to Australia at the age of 20, with her husband of 6 weeks. By her mid 20’s she was single again. “He left me 13,000 miles from family and friends, so I had to grow up quickly.”  Sandrena continued in the world of fashion, in both Melbourne and Sydney and soon met her current husband Dennis, “the love of my life.”  Sandrena’s entree into the world of commercial cooking was actually conspired by Dennis. “My husband kept bringing his managers home for dinner at short notice.  I found I enjoyed the challenge.” And so began a 17 year career catering to the corporate sector.  “I ran my catering business from home and cooked in the various companies’ very well equipped  kitchens and boardrooms.  It was a pleasure, as they all had the best china, crystal, silverware and wines.”

Sandrina’s love of cooking came from spending time in the kitchen with an ex boyfriend’s father.  “I think I spent more time with the father in his kitchen than I did with his son.”  She loves all styles of cooking and describes her own style as “eclectic.”  Her creativity extends beyond her cooking.  “I have always been interested in art, as a child I was always drawing.”  Her home is adorned with her stunning watercolour and acrylic paintings.  She has had successful exhibitions at the Nexus Gallery in Bellingen.

I commented to Sandrena about the enormous island bench which dominates her chef’s kitchen.  “My distant plan is to have cooking classes here at home,” says Sandrena.  Here’s hoping!

If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Salmon Three Ways

Pre heat oven to 180oC
4 X 180g salmon fillets, pinboned (IGA or Lindsay’s Urunga)
2 tablespoons smoked paprika (IGA)
2 tablespoons sumac IGA)
2 tablespoons Za’arta (IGA)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (IGA)
2 crushed cloves of garlic (IGA)
½ teaspoon black pepper
1. Place all of the above ingredients exept the salmon on a plate and mix to combine.
2. Press the salmon into the mixture to cover all sides. Place bake in fridge to firm up.
3. Place salmon on a tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for
8-10 minutes.  Salmon should be pink in the middle.

¼ Cup tamarind past (IGA)
2 tablespoons Asian chilli jam (IGA)
½ cup vegetable stock (IGA)
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 x 180g skinless salmon fillets (IGA or Lindsay’s Oyster Barn Urunga))
1 bunch baby bok choy sliced lengthways (IGA or Green Grocer)
1 bunch brocollini , sliced lengthways (IGA or Green Grocer)
10 whole dried chillies

1.Place the tamarind, chilli jam and stock in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
2.Heat oil in a large non stick frypan over high heat. Add the salmon and cook for 2                               minutes. Turn the salmon over and add the chilles and cook for a further 2 minutes.
3. Pour the tamarind mixture over the salmon. Place the vegetables on top of the salmon, cover with lid and cook for a further 2 minutes or until the salmon and vegetables are cooked to your liking.

2-4 pieces salmon from the center of the fish

Smoking mix:

½ cup long grain rice (IGA)
¼ cup jasmin tea leaves
3 tablespoon brown sugar
2 star anise broken (optional)
2 dry chillies (optional)


4 cloves garlic (IGA or Green Grocer)
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped (IGA or Green Grocer)
2 teaspoons Five spice powder (IGA or Green Grocer)
¼ cup olive oil (IGA)
5 tablespoon soy sauce (IGA)
3 tablespoons brown sugar (IGA)
¼ cup fresh orange juice.

To make the marinade:  blend all the ingredients in a blender, until smooth. Place the salmon in a zip lock bag along with the marinade and seal. Marinate for 1 hour or overnight.

Smoking the salmon:

You will need a wok with a lid, a steamer basket or trivet, these two need to sit above the smoking mix and not touch the mix, you need space for the smoke to circulate. Foil to line the wok.

  1. Line the wok with 4 layers of foil (I make a little bowl out of the foil) place in the bottom of the wok, and put the smoking mix on top of the foil, place the oiled steamer basket or trivet into the wok.
  2. Take salmon out of the marinade, blotting the bottom and sides of the salmon only.
  3. Fire up your BBQ or wok burner on your stove, turn it to high heat ( I prefer to do this outside, because of the smoke) place the foil basket of smoking mix in the bottom of the wok and heat up until it starts to smoke. When it starts to smoke turn the heat down.
  4. Then place the salmon on the trivet or steamer making sure they are not touching each other, cover with a layer of foil and the wok lid and smoke for about 7-8 minutes. Do not over smoke the salmon. It should be pink and moist inside.

Serve with rice or steamed vegetables.

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