Culinary secrets

PUBLISHED: 09:13 29 January 2014 | UPDATED: 09:14 29 January 2014


Emma Macdonald, trained chef and founder of Wincanton’s The Bay Tree Food Company, shares her culinary secrets for the first time

WORDS: Charlotte Skidmore

Vodka cured salmonVodka cured salmon

In her new deli-inspired cookbook, Emma shows how to turn deli-bought ingredients into memorable dishes, explaining not only how to pickle, smoke, cure and conserve, but also how to put together great meals and mix and match both home-cooked and store-bought foods, ideal for those with busy lives. The mouth watering recipes include bacon, nectarine and ginger salad, baked redcurrant and clove glazed ham, vodka cured salmon, smoked trout with potato latkes and beetroot relish, king prawn fritters with sweet chilli jam, and chocolate risotto with boozy cherries. Emma says: “After 20 years in the food business, a great wish of mine has been to publish my own cookery book, bringing together a collection of my favourite deli secrets and inspiring our customers to simply have a go at making food they would normally buy, such as sweet chilli jam, date confit or chermoula.

“There are also simple, quick-to-make ideas for weekday suppers, as well as more elaborate, adventurous dishes to try at weekends.

“We all have a style of cooking, but when we get the opportunity to do so, we should think outside the box.

“This has given me that opportunity.

Chocolate risottoChocolate risotto

“Cooking has always been an obsession of mine from a young age.

“I was making surgar flowers at the age of 14.

“I probabaly caused chaos for my mother.”

One of Emma’s favourite recipes in the book is the vodka cured salmon and she has agreed to share it, along with another recipe, with Somerset Life readers.

Chocolate risotto with boozy cherries:

A sweet risotto may sound unusual, but the short-grain Arborio is equally happy used in a rice pudding as it is in a savoury risotto. Serve the intensely chocolatey pudding in small bowls, topped with the cherries steeped in kirsch.

Serves 4–6

Preparation time: 25 minutes, 
plus resting

Cooking time: 50 minutes


· 875ml/30fl oz/3½ cups whole milk

· 60g/2¼ oz/¼ cup caster sugar

· 165g/5¾ oz/¾ cup Arborio rice

· 60g/2¼ oz dark chocolate, about 70% cocoa solids, cut into small pieces

· 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

· single cream, to serve (optional)

Boozy cherries:

· 650g/1lb 7oz dark cherries, pitted

· 60g/2 1/4 oz/1/4 cup caster sugar

· 3 tbsp kirsch or brandy

· 2 tsp cornflour

(or simply use a jar of The Bay Tree’s cherries in Kirsch)


1 Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas 2. Put the milk, sugar and rice into a casserole. Bring the milk almost to the boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the chocolate and keep stirring until it has melted.

2 Stir in the vanilla, cover with a lid and transfer to the oven. Bake for 40–45 minutes, stirring occasionally until the rice is tender. Stir any skin that has formed on the surface into the rice and leave it to rest, covered, for five minutes before serving.

3 Meanwhile, make the boozy cherries. Put the cherries, sugar and 2 tbsps water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Mix together the kirsch and cornflour and gradually stir the mixture into the cherries. Simmer for another two to three minutes until the sauce has thickened and the cherries are tender.

4 Serve the chocolate risotto topped with the cherries and a swirl of cream, if liked. Any spare boozy cherries can be transferred to a sterilised jar and covered with a lid. They will keep for up to one week stored in a cool, dark place. Keep in the fridge once opened.

Vodka-cured salmon:

The salmon is cured briefly, just enough to give it a firm texture and good flavour, so this is a perfect recipe for a quick supper. Try to use thick salmon filIets as they work best.

Serves 4

Preparation time: 2½ hours

Cooking time: 5 minutes


· 40g/1½oz/scant ¼ cup sea salt flakes

· 55g/2oz/¼ cup caster sugar

· 4 thick fillets salmon, skin removed, about 175g/6oz each

· 100ml/3½fl oz/generous 1/3 cup vodka

· 25g/1oz butter

· 2 tsp olive oil

· 125ml/4fl oz/½ cup crème fraîche

· Juice of ½ lemon

· Freshly ground black pepper

· Samphire or green beans and crusty bread, to serve

· Sweet cucumber relish or cucumber pickle, to serve

(Or simply use a jar of The Bay Tree’s sweet cucumber pickle)


1 To prepare the salmon, mix together the salt and sugar in a bowl. Lay the salmon in a shallow dish and pour the vodka over. Spoon any vodka in the bottom of the dish over the fillets and repeat this a few times. Sprinkle the salt and sugar over the top of the salmon and rub them in until the salmon is evenly covered. Cover the dish with cling film and put it in the fridge for two hours.

2 Scrape the salt and sugar off the salmon and rinse it briefly under cold running water. Pat dry thoroughly.

3 Heat the butter and olive oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Season the salmon with pepper and cook for about two minutes on each side.

4 Meanwhile, mix together the crème fraîche and lemon juice and season with pepper. Serve the salmon with the lemony crème fraîche spooned over the top with the cucumber pickle, samphire and crusty bread by the side.

From The Bay Tree Home Deli Recipes by Emma Macdonald © Duncan Baird Publishers 2013, commissioned photography by Toby Scott.

The cookbook will be sold at independent farm shops and delis across the West Country and online at

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