Smoked Fish: A Cure For Colder Months

Smoked mackerel

As the days get shorter – and chillier – it’s hard to beat the allure of smoked fish. The tangy taste lends itself to so many dishes, it’s a surprise we don’t eat it more often.

Kedgeree for breakfast? Smoked mackerel pâté for lunch? Smoked haddock gratin for dinner? Dive in – there’s plenty to choose from.

Protein rich and packed with healthy vitamins, minerals and omega-3 oils, smoked fish is good for the brain, heart and immune system. That’s exactly what we need at this time of year with the arrival of colds and flu.

Factor into the mix the fact we’re all staying at home more, for work as well as relaxation, and this energy-boosting healthy option can help beat the winter blues. As a bonus, those omega-3 oils are the perfect antidote to skin feeling parched and dried out from central heating.

The UK is a nation of fish curers and we’re never far from Arbroath smokies and smoked haddock, salmon and mackerel – even smoked rainbow trout.

Smoking was one of the earliest methods devised to preserve surplus summer stocks of food through the lean winter months. The carbon in the smoke reacted with the oils in the fish to create a coating that had a preservative effect on the fish and imbued it with a wonderful flavour.

Smoking is actually the last stage in the preserving process, following salting or brining, air drying and then smoking. Particularly effective in food with lots of oil, smoking in the ideal method to preserve herring, mackerel and salmon.

In The Scots Kitchen, F Marian McNeill looks at the heritage of smoked fish:

“The kippering of herring is carried out mainly on the west coast, the ‘wastlin’, or west coast herring being the pick of the market. On the east coast, they specialise in the curing of haddock and other white fish. In the mid-19th century there were three main cures – the Moray Firth or Buckie cure, the Auchmithie or Arbroath cure and the widely renowned Findon cure.

“Most of our overseas and foreign visitors delight in our smoked fish, whether a plump Loch Fyne kipper, a buttercup-yellow Finnan haddie, a pale ‘Moray Firth’, a copper-coloured Arbroath ‘smokie’, or a slice of pinkish brown smoked salmon.”

McNeill’s recipes include how to serve a Finnan haddie “fishwife’s fashion” – steamed in a pan with butter, cornflour and milk – and ham and haddie, frying smoked haddock with slices of smoked ham.

Turn to Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course for recipes for family favourites such as smoked haddock with cream and egg sauce and smoked fish pie. Topped with mashed potato and a golden crust of melted cheese, the creamy fish pie can be made with any combination of smoked fish. Smith suggests adding smoked salmon trimmings for extra flavour.

Smoked fish offer a wide range of textures and flavours but all have one thing in common – they couldn’t be easier to cook. Butter, eggs, milk and cream are the perfect accompaniments to smoked fish, beautifully complementing the rich, deep flavours.

Smoked haddock can be poached or oven baked. Use the fish as the main ingredient in fish cakes, mousses and fish pie.

Finnan haddock have a deep, earthy flavour that is perfect for kedgeree and chowders.

Arbroath smokies are the fish to buy if you want to make Cullen skink, an easy fish risotto or just to serve simply with fresh root vegetables and a couple of knobs of butter.

Smoked mackerel, with crème fraîche and horseradish sauce, can be whizzed up into a crunchy pâté. A wonderful all-rounder, smoked mackerel can be baked, steamed, grilled or shallow fried.

Smoked salmon slices can turn an everyday breakfast into a real treat or serve with a wedge of lemon and thin buttered slices of rye bread for a tasty starter. If you’re looking for a secret ingredient to transform baked pasta dishes, soups and fish cakes, consider smoked salmon trimmings.

Smoked trout is particularly low in fat for those looking for the healthiest option. Sauté, grill or bake and serve with herbs, almonds, lemon and white wine for a dish that’s simple to cook but packed with complex flavours.

Looking for inspiration? Try these recipes:

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