Poached haddock with potatoes, egg and crispy bacon
Poached haddock with potatoes, egg and crispy bacon

Mark Hix recipes: Smoking lends winter dishes warm, complex flavours

This ancient method of food preservation is here to stay and new artisan smokehouses are popping up all the time

Mark Hi
Friday 04 December 2015 23:34

Smoking was a key component of preservation in pre-refrigeration days, when the curing and brining process would be the preservative and the smoking would add flavour. Things have obviously moved on, and while some producers do use quite sophisticated techniques others remain proudly traditional.

You get all kinds of things smoked these days; sometimes it can get a tad gimmicky. But smoking is certainly here to stay and new artisan smokehouses are popping up all the time, in a way not unlike craft breweries.

Poached smoked haddock with potatoes, egg and crispy bacon

Serves 4

This makes a great brunch or supper dish. Try to buy the best natural smoked haddock you can get your hands on, and not the stuff that for some reason gets treated with weird orange colouring.

4 large shallots, finely chopped
2tbsp freshly grated horseradish plus some more if required
100ml chicken or vegetable stock
500g large new potatoes, peeled, cooked and sliced
60ml cider vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
30-40ml olive or rapeseed oil
2tbsp chopped parsley
500g smoked haddock fillet, trimmed and cut into 4 even-sized portions
Milk for poaching
1 bay leaf
8 rashers rindless streaky bacon
4 medium hens eggs
A little vegetable or corn oil for frying

Put the shallots, horseradish, two thirds of the vegetable stock and the vinegar in a pan, and simmer until almost completely reduced. Add the potatoes, vinegar and the rest of the stock, stir well, cover and cook gently over a low heat for another 4-5 minutes, giving the occasional stir. The liquid should have almost disappeared and the potatoes should be falling apart a little. Stir in the olive oil and parsley, add more horseradish if you like, and replace the lid to keep warm. Put the haddock in a saucepan with about 200ml milk and enough water to just cover the fish. Season, add the bay leaf, then simmer gently for about 4-5 minutes or until the fish is just cooked, then remove from the heat.

Meanwhile grill the bacon until crisp, and lightly fry the eggs. To serve, spoon the potatoes on to warmed serving plates. Lift the haddock from the milk and carefully remove the skin. Place the fish on top of the potatoes and arrange the egg and bacon on top.

Smoked salmon croquettes with horseradish mayonnaise

Makes about 20

You can serve these as a snack at a drinks party, as a starter or even make larger ones to serve as a main course. Supermarkets and fishmongers quite often sell smoked salmon trimmings which are perfect for this. If you wish you can prepare the croquettes in advance, freeze them and then cook them later from frozen.

For the croquettes

500g large floury potatoes, peeled
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 egg yolks
150g smoked salmon trimmings, finely chopped
1tbsp chopped dill
Plain flour for dusting
2 medium eggs, beaten
50g fresh white breadcrumbs
Vegetable or corn oil for frying

For the sauce

2tbsp good quality mayonnaise
1tbsp freshly grated horseradish or strong horseradish sauce

Quarter the potatoes and place in a pan, cover with lightly salted cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender. Drain and return to the pan on a low heat for a minute or so to dry them out. Mash the potato through a potato ricer or as fine as you can with a masher, then leave to cool. Once cool, mix in the egg yolks, salmon and dill and season to taste.

Smoked salmon croquettes with horseradish mayonnaise

You can mould the mixture into small cylinders or balls about the diameter of a 10p piece, or just make shapes with a dessert spoon. Refrigerate for a couple hours to firm up. Have three dishes ready – one with seasoned flour, one with the beaten eggs and the third with the breadcrumbs – and a tray for the finished croquettes. Carefully pass them through the flour, shaking off any excess, then the egg and finally the breadcrumbs. Store in the fridge until required.

To serve, preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer. Mix the mayonnaise and horseradish together. Deep fry the croquettes a few at a time until golden, moving them around as they are cooking with a slotted spoon, then transfer to a tray lined with kitchen paper. Serve with the sauce in a dipping pot.

Smoked duck, endive and apple salad

Serves 4

There are two types of smoked duck you can buy: cold smoked which is prepared like a ham, or hot smoked which is smoked and lightly cooked. Either will work well for this. I use a Parisian scoop or melon baller for this dish, but you can also just dice the apple if you prefer.

Smoked duck, endive and apple salad

For the dressing

1tbsp sherry vinegar
4tbsp walnut oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad

A couple heads of red endive or treviso, trimmed, washed and dried
2 red-skinned apples, scooped with a baller or cut into a rough 1cm dice
1 or 2 smoked duck breasts, depending on size, thinly sliced

Whisk the dressing ingredients together and season. Toss the endive and apples in the dressing and arrange on serving plates with the slices of smoked duck.

Smoked cheese on toast with cider onions

Serves 4

I've never been a big fan of smoked cheese but I was recently at the Ferguson's Gubbeen farm in Cork, and it had been some years since I had tried their smoked Gubbeen. My opinion of smoked cheese has changed as a result – with cheese of the finest quality, the smoking technique certainly does add a little something unique instead of just masking the flavour. So if you can get hold of that particular variety of cheese for this dish, do so. The onions can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for a couple days.

Smoked cheese on toast with cider onions

A little vegetable or corn oil for frying
2 large onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
A couple knobs of butter
Salt an freshly ground black pepper
200ml dry cider
4 slices of sourdough
300-400g smoked cheese, preferably Gubbeen, cut into ½ cm slices
A little paprika

Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onions on a low heat with a lid on for 3-4 minutes, stirring every so often. Add the butter and continue cooking for a few more minutes, then add the cider and cook without the lid on a low heat until all the liquid has evaporated and the onions are very soft. When ready to dine, toast the sourdough on both sides, then spoon the onions over them and lay the cheese on top. Grill for a couple minutes until the cheese is just melted. Serve with a little paprika sprinkled on top.

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