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I fondly remember smoked fish from my childhood. It was always served in a fish pie with mashed potato and it was a great favourite.
Recently I have become aware of the amazing variety of smoked fish now available but it is the quality which is so superb. When I was young smoked fish did not taste like this. What we are tasting today is a celebration of the smokers' art.
Smoked salmon has been easily accessible for years but now we have many other varieties of deeply delectable smoked fish; mackerel, warehou, hoki, tarakihi, eel, tuna, hake and southern kingfish. There may well be others.
There are two companies that I know of which smoke New Zealand fish. Both are located in Nelson - Smokehouse and Aqua Fresh - and their smoked fish is available from some supermarkets and fish shops in Dunedin.
Because the fish is hot-smoked (it cooks during the smoking process) it can be used straight from the packet and does not require any additional cooking. Smoked fish, ready to eat instantly, is a gift to the cook in a hurry. It is also very rich, so a little goes a long way.
The possibilities of how to serve it are numerous. Some of my favourites are.-
Mixed with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dollop of sour cream, and piled on rye bread.
- Flaked or sliced as part of an antipasto platter, with dill, capers and lemon wedges.
- Blitzed with cream cheese, horseradish sauce and a seasoning and the resulting pate served on crusty bread or toast.
- Combined with floury potatoes and spring onions to make a rich, smoky fish cake.
- Stirred into a dish of creamy pasta.
- Tossed with spicy puy lentils and cherry tomatoes as a salad
Brandade of smoked warehou with rosemary and sumac crostini
Brandade, a rich combination of salt cod, potatoes and olive oil is a classic dish much loved by the French. As salt cod is not available in New Zealand I have made a similar dish with smoked warehou.
The original brandade recipes are quite time-consuming and labour intensive. I have simplified this while still retaining the smooth, supremely soothing puree of the original.
Some recipes call for garlic and I wanted only the merest hint, no harshness here. I cooked the finely slivered garlic along with the potatoes to give a sweet, subtle flavour.
Smoked warehou is a creamy, medium-textured fish with a mild flavour which is delicious served this way. I have also made the brandade using smoked mackerel, a fully flavoured fish which gives it just a bit more oomph.
I serve the brandade as a pate spread on crusty bread or on the rosemary and sumac crostini.
I also serve it as a light lunch. Pile the brandade into four small ramekins and accompany each with bread or crostini and a salad.
Makes 3½ cups
300g floury potatoes (I use Agria), cut into 2cm cubes
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
400g skinless smoked warehou
½ cup sour cream
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp milk, if needed
2 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon or thyme
Rosemary and sumac crostini
olive oil spray
1½ Tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
1½ tsp ground sumac
Cook the potatoes and slivered garlic for 15-20 minutes until tender.
While the potatoes are cooking flake the fish. I find the easiest way to do this is to process it briefly in the food processor until finely chopped. You can flake the fish with a fork if preferred.
Drain the potatoes well, retaining the garlic. Mash well. With a fork, beat in the sour cream, then the oil and lemon juice until creamy and well incorporated.
Add the finely chopped warehou, and mix well.
This is quite a stiff mixture. The puree should have a smooth, creamy consistency suitable for spreading. Add the milk if needed. Stir in the chopped tarragon leaves. Pile the puree into 4 small ramekins for serving as individual lunch portions or into a large bowl if serving as a pre-dinner pate. Refrigerate covered until needed. Serve at room temperature.
Rosemary and sumac crostini
Preheat the oven to 150degC bake or 130degC fanbake.
Slice baguette into 40 5mm slices.
Spray each slice with olive oil on both sides.
Place on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper.
Mix together the rosemary and the sumac and sprinkle evenly on to each slice.
Bake for 15-18 minutes until lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Refresh in the oven if necessary.
Simple smoked mackerel toasts
Big on flavour with moist, rich flesh, mackerel is one of the less expensive smoked fish (approximately $4 per 100g)
The recipe below makes a topping for crisp toasts. On slices of sourdough bread it makes for a quick, yummy lunch with pizzazz. Served on smaller, more elegant-looking toasted crostini it becomes a very moreish starter for dinner.
5-6 slices sourdough or rustic brown bread
170g skinless lemon-pepper smoked mackerel
¼ cup sour cream
1½ tsp grainy mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp chopped chives
Preheat the grill. Lightly toast the bread (I use a toaster).
Flake the mackerel with a fork. Set aside.
In a bowl combine the sour cream, mustard, Worcestershire sauce with the cheese and stir in the smoked mackerel and the chives.
Pile the mixture on to the toasts, then grill for 3-4 minutes until golden and bubbling.