As you are aware once a month myself and Trish Oakley do a Food Club.  It has almost been going a year and we have covered everything from Tapas - Emerson's beer matched with food and the man himself (Richard) was present - Wine (thanks to Sam at Rhubarb) matched with food of course.  We had half a lamb from Duncan (the farmer) with which we got down and dirty with the hack-saw, hung out with a few too many birds - poultry of course! Showcased the valuable skill of boning a whole chicken.  Whew and that is only the tip of the food basket!

This month we are concentrating on Fish - filleting, smoking, curing and simple methods of cookery.  I have been brought up by the sea and fish of any shape and form has always been a staple meal for us.  Like anything these days it is getting expensive and the art of fishing, filleting and curing is disappearing from our repertoire.  I feel passionately about keeping skills like this alive, it not only is a more affordable skill to have up your sleeve i think you will find it not half as scary as you once may have thought. 


maple and bay smoked monkfish
(manuka bark)

Smoking fish is not only about imparting flavour it is also a form of preservation. You can pretty much smoke any type of fish although oily fish like salmon, trout and mackerel smoke with better results due to their natural oiliness and they seem to absorb flavour better.
Smoking fish is hugely satisfying especially if you have done the hunter-gatherer thing. However if like me and fish don’t seem to like your line then buying from the farmers market or fishmonger is the next best thing. It is paramount that the fish is super fresh, to check this firstly smell the fish it should not smell fishy at all. The skin should be shiny and not dry, and the flesh should have a natural sheen. If buying whole fish always check the gills they should be bright red and the eyes should be plump and glossy.

What I like about smoking fish at home is that you can experiment with the rub, marinade, type of wood chips (untreated) and of course the type of fish.


fish ready for smoking

• BRINE – 1 Tbsp salt per cup of water – you will need enough brine to cover your fish. Increase recipe as required. (I usually only brine white fleshed fish like red cod or any soft fleshed fish). I leave the fish/ fillets in the brine for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
• Rinse off the brine under cold running water and pat dry the fish with paper towels.

• Make a rub or glaze to rub over the flesh of the fish – brown sugar, lemon zest and cracked pepper works well. Or perhaps try maple syrup, lemon zest and mixed peppercorns. You want enough to generously cover the fish.

• Prepare you smoker by placing wood chips on the base and filling the dish provided with white spirits. Place the fish or fillets, skin side down on the tray provided. Light the spirits and place under the smoker ensuring that it is not sitting on a flammable surface. Place the lid on; for an average fillet of salmon it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes. I checked mine a few times to ensure it wasn’t over cooking.

• Remove from the smoker and serve.

home smoked monkfish
verjuice mayonnaise and wild rocket and cucumber salad