Making miso soup…

Link: Making miso soup…

Jay Rayner offers up this interesting video on how to make miso soup, with the head chef of Roka (side note – must make a visit to this place!). A few things struck me, armed with my limited knowledge of Japanese cuisine. Firstly that the chef makes his dashi using bonito flakes and shiitake. I had always understood that konbu (kombu) – kelp seaweed – was the standard ingredient of dashi and a key source of umami in the finished dish. Secondly the chef states that kezurikatsuo (flakes of katsuobushi – made from dried, smoked bonito) are widely available. However I’ve yet to find a decent source of bags the size he has in his kitchen. Can anyone help?

Home-made taramasalata: fresh cod roe cured over night, fridge dried, smoked over oak and alder f

Dry cure (Maldon salt)


The final article

Also seen: smoked skordalia

Home-made taramasalata: fresh cod roe cured over night, fridge dried, smoked over oak and alder for just under 4 hours. Combine in blender with soaked stale sourdough, lemon juice, a little onion, olive and sunflower oil to make home-made taramasalata. Chill before serving. And very nice it was too!

Once you have a Bradley smoker, you are indoctrinated into a secret society of home smoking. Tur

Smoked scallops

Pigeon breasts

Once you have a Bradley smoker, you are indoctrinated into a secret society of home smoking. Turns out two of the stall holders at Harborne market swear by theirs. It’s like joining the masons (I’d imagine). We can recognise each other from the insidious smell of oak smoke on our fingers and the far-away look in the eyes. Mr Holly and the Ivy who runs a chutney stall is a massive Bradley fan. He smokes garlic, chillies and ginger for his stall. He also gave a tip for smoked pineapples (peel them and hot-smoke). He warned me to ensure the bisquette dispenser was kept nice and clean as he’d burnt out four motors due to tar build-up on his. The nice chap from ARK Game also had a Bradley and said all his game could be smoked, but recommended I tried some venison fillets. But he warned me not to smoke these over oak as it would be too strong, instead I should try a milder wood such as cherry or apple – so I have put these in the freezer in anticipation of a delivery of bisquettes from Great Fire of Nantwich.

I went to the market with Tom Baker from Loaf Online who had brought a few things round to smoke. We cold-smoked his home-cured streaky bacon, some pheasant fillets, some Keen’s cheddar (very nice!), some Maldon salt and some of Charbel’s garlic. This was all done over oak for a couple of hours. I did find the cabinet temperature would rise up to 40 degrees unless the door was opened to cool it down, so I think I will need to invest in the cold smoker accessory sooner rather than later. We even tried cold-smoking some eggs (at about 35 degrees) and I risked a major food poisoning incident by making a smoked garlic mayonnaise to go with a dish of poached chicken with mash. I can’t say the smoke flavour came through that strongly, but we at least didn’t die (yet).

For lunch we hot-smoked some scallops (60 degrees for 30 minutes) and quickly finished them in a frying pan. They had good texture but perhaps would have suited a milder wood than oak for a subtler smoke. More successful were some pigeon breasts which had about an hour at the same temperature – rare inside but with a fantastic background umami smoke flavour. A definite success  – will do this again (and thankfully, pigeon is available year round unlike other game birds). It might even be worth curing the fillets in advance to keep them soft and give them some juniper flavour. I also did some sea trout which I should make some lovely pate.

I am obsessed with my smoker now. I need a lie down.

What can you smoke?

Since I got my smoker there’s been a lot of discussion of what could be usefully smoked. Here’s a quick list:

fish: oysters, scallops, prawns, sea trout, salmon, eel, haddock (Arbroath smokies), cod, herring roe, mackerel, herring (kipper), mussels, razor clams

meat: lamb, rib of beef, steaks, pastrami, pork shoulder, sausages, bacon, ham, ribs, chicken, pheasant, partridge, venison, duck, 

vegetables: potatoes, bell peppers, chilli peppers (particularly jalapenos), aubergine, corn on the cob, squash, ginger

fruit: bananas, plums (wumei), apples

tofu, cheese, eggs


almonds, peanuts

liquids: oil, water

grains: barley (for Rauchbier)

condiments: salt, paprika

finished meals: boston baked beans, curry, stews

Taking up smoking

What does a food obsessive as far gone as me want for Christmas? Only a Bradley smoker. Thanks Mum and Dad!

This has been at the top of my most-wanted list for some time now. I’m the happy owner of a stovetop smoker (favourite trick: smoked potatoes for mash), but have been frustrated by the inability to cold smoke food.

The Bradley solves that, and opens a whole world of new food possibilities.

It’s a cabinet the size of a small fridge with a separate smoke generation device. This is bolted to the side, or optionally can be moved away from the cabinet, resulting in cooler smoke. It burns bespoke puck-shaped “bisquettes” also made by Bradley, which come in a variety of flavours including oak, apple, maple and cherry. Each bisquette burns for 20 minutes before being dumped into a bowl of cold water to extinquish it.

The Bradley is an outdoor unit and I have a perfect space for it near our shed, sheltered from the elements.

As far as I can see, you could cold-smoke most things. The obvious beneficiaries are oily fish like salmon, trout and eel. I plan to smoke pretty much anything that might benefit; scallops, chicken (Momofuku cold-smoke wings before turning them into fried chicken), ham, bacon, cheddar, duck, game, joints of beef, lamb. Even a homemade curry will benefit from a bit of smoke (according to Lasan’s freely-available cookbook).

The Bradley has an inbuilt heating element if you want to warm or hot-smoke also, so you could roast a leg of lamb and smoke it at the same time!

According to The Flavour Thesauraus, a great foodie Christmas present from Hannah’s Dad:

“Smoked flavour is imparted by compounds including guaiacol, which has an aromatic, sweet, smoked-sausage taste, and eugenol, the main flavour component in clove.”

I can’t think of many things that wouldn’t be improved by those flavours!
After seasoning the smoker, I got started on my first smoking experiment.

Ribeye on the bone

I had frozen a 1.5kg piece of Jack O’Shea’s Irish ribeye on the bone, just waiting for the right moment. This was it. A piece of meat this special needs some extra special treatment, so what better than to try and add some oak smoke to it? I salted the joint and let it come to room temperature. An hour of warm smoking at 60 degrees centigrade did not appreciably cook the joint but gave it a pungent bonfire smell. I then subjected it to a hot charcoal barbecue, resulting in a lovely dark crust. I love to use the barbecue like this to get a lovely charred crust, but you can’t cook it this way, you have to then move it to the oven to cook the inside. 20 minutes in a hot oven and it was done rare; about 50 degrees centigrade. Another 20 minutes to rest and it was ready to eat with some mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. The smoking was subtle, but appreciable, and added a bit of definite extra umami bacon flavour. A legendary steak dinner.

Smoked salmon “Harborne” cure

The great Mark Hix smokes his own salmon in his garden using a Bradley and supplies the results to his restaurants as well as Selfridges. Being a big fan, I thought I would start my salmon smoking experiments by ripping off his “Hix Cure“. I managed to source a whole organic Loch Duart farmed salmon weighing 3.5kg from my local Loch Fyne restaurant at short notice (thanks guys!). This came whole, but already gutted and scaled. Once filleted (rather amateurishly, I’m afraid), a simple salt and sugar cure was applied – 500g of molasses sugar and 160g of Maldon salt. This cured for around 16 hours in the fridge. The next day I drained the liquid that had accumulated, washed the cure off and made some slashes in the skin so that the smoke would permeate the fillets better. I popped in 12 oak bisquettes and left the salmon to its devices while we went to the Jewellery Quarter and looked around the great Birmingham Pen Museum.  When I came back the cabinet temperature was at an alarming 50 degrees C despite the heating element being off. I was initially worried I might have accidentally cooked the fish, but although the fat had been drawn towards the surface, this settled after refrigeration.

The end result was excellent. The smokiness is intense. The slightest handling of the pieces gives you fingers like a 50-a-day man. The molasses cure lent it a full-bodied sweetness but it was not overwhelmingly “treacle-y”. This really was nothing like supermarket smoked salmon.

We enjoyed some on its own, and then on blinis with cream cheese. For New Year’s Eve dinner, I made the following concoction.

Smoked salmon with beetroot

The idea for this salad is stolen from Fergus Henderson’s second book Beyond Nose To Tail (not quite as good as his first effort, IMO) where grated beetroot is teamed with finely sliced red cabbage and red onion. This is combined with an oil, balsamic vinegar and caper dressing. On the plate a decent nudjule of creme fraiche is spooned on top and sprigs of chervil are draped over it. I substituted tarragon for chervil, and sherry vinegar for balsamic (I hate balsamic vinegar!). The major innovation was to place a few choice slices of smoked salmon on top. As Fergus suggests, the ingredients like to be messed up on the plate.

For New Year’s Day breakfast I made sourdough muffins according to Tom Baker’s recipe. Despite my hangover (or because of it), kneading the wet dough mixture was less stressful than usual.

Later I will try making some smoked salmon fish cakes from the fatty offcuts, with a very garlicky mayonnaise.

What next? Not sure, I’ll let you know!