Exploring Tasmania with Massimo Mele

  • Not everybody knows about Tasmania’s incredible produce, however Electrolux ambassador and Tasmanian-born Italian chef, Massimo Mele tells us that it’s regional produce-focused. Tasmania may be famous for its abalone, but you’ll also find great olive oil produced along the North West coast, beautiful fresh fruit harvested in the South and some of the best pinot noirs being made in Australia.

    Tasmania’s food scene is flourishing, attracting foodies from all over the world with exciting food and wine festivals, markets and providores. “Being produce driven” is a huge part of Massimo’s cooking these days. “Now it’s about provenance, learning where [your food] comes from and how it got there.” He says people want to know the story behind the produce they’re buying: whether their vegetables were harvested organically, where their beef was reared and even what diets livestock are being fed. As the demand for sustainable produce rises, Massimo took us on a journey down to the Huon Valley to one of his favourite local producers: Huon Aquaculture.  

    One of the oldest farms in Tasmania, the family-owned business run by Peter and Frances Bender farms 20,000 tonnes of Huon Tasmanian salmon in Southern Tasmania. They produce fresh and smoked salmon, as well as salmon caviar which, according to Massimo, is “exceptional.”

  • After pulling on his overalls and gum boots, Massimo explored the different pens with fisherman, Thai. “Only 1% [of the pens] is actually made up of the actual fish. They’ve [Huon] gone to huge lengths to create an environment where the fish are quite relaxed,” Mele tells us.

    Creating a stress-free environment is important if you want to farm quality produce - “Not everybody goes to that extent to give you a product.”  Huon salmon are fed a nutrient rich diet and inhabit an environment resembling that of the wild to produce greater wellbeing for the fish, ultimately resulting in a better tasting product. When it comes to the harvesting stage, the fish can reach up to a whopping 8-10 kilos! The beauty of Huon is that they’re the only farm to do an overnight harvest meaning they’re the freshest to market. 

    Packed with plenty of vitamins, minerals and omega-3, this protein rich fish is one of the world’s most nutritious foods. Below Massimo shares his recipe for oven-baked salmon encased in a salt crust and served with homemade saffron aioli for a touch of gourmet.

    Encasing the fish in a salt crust with lots of different herbs means no moisture escapes as it steams and roasts at the same time, ensuring the meat remains beautifully tender and well-seasoned. 

Salt-baked Huon salmon

  • 1 x whole fillet of Huon salmon, skin on and scales preferably
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 bulb of fennel
  • ½ a bunch of fresh-flat leaf parsley
  • ½ a bunch of fresh chives
  • 4 kg rock salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Homemade saffron aioli

  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 300ml pure olive oil
  • Pinch of saffron threads (about 8 crumbled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot water
  • Salt
  • White pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt-baked Huon salmon

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4.

  2. Pat the salmon dry with kitchen paper (leaving the scales on helps to keep in the moisture as it cooks).

  3. Finely slice 1 lemon and the fennel into a bowl with the parsley, marjoram and chives. Lay the lemon and herbs down on a sheet of baking paper onto a tray.

  4. Combine the rock salt, eggs, flour and 250ml of water in a large bowl, mix well until the mixture resembles a thick paste and set aside.

  5. Lay the salmon diagonally into the tray, then spoon over the salt mixture, heaping it around and onto the salmon so that it’s evenly covered – you should have a layer of salt, roughly 2cm thick, all over the salmon. Pack tightly to ensure there are no holes for the steam to escape through.

  6. Place the tray in the hot oven for around 35 minutes, or until cooked through. To test if the salmon is ready, push a skewer through the salt into the thickest part of the fish – if it comes out warm after 5 seconds, it’s done.

Homemade saffron aioli

Tip: “Grating cooked egg yolk in at the end, creates another texture”

  1. To make the aioli, pour the olive oil into a measuring cup with a spout. In a blender or food processor, combine the egg yolks, mustard, garlic, saffron, salt and white pepper.

  2. Pulse several times until the garlic is pulverised. With the motor running, add the oils in a slow, steady stream.

  3. Stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice if needed to thin the aioli; it should be the consistency of mayonnaise.

To finish

 To serve, place the salmon onto a large serving dish with the saffron aioli on the side. You can also add some garden leaves and fresh radish on the side for presentation.