IN my first job, on the lowest rung of a rigorously segregated ladder, one of my tasks was preparing whole sides of wild smoked salmon destined for the ornate carving trolley.

Once readied, salmon and trolley slipped from the clattering kitchen, to glide about the calm elegance of the restaurant, hidden beyond the kitchen doors. Those sides of the noble salmon created my love of all smoked fish, which has never dimmed. Today, if we use smoked salmon in the restaurant, we smoke it ourselves. A hugely popular dish right now is our own home-smoked monkfish, so silky and luxurious.

Back then, that smoked salmon was carved by the waiters at the table side. The trim was turned into mousse for canapés, every precious morsel treated like gold. I have just as much respect for smoked mackerel and trout: both make regular appearances, perhaps on our menus of the day or as canapés. They may be at the less pricey end of the spectrum, but their flavours are outstanding.

The dense texture, rich oily flakiness and irresistible aroma of smoke is a heady cocktail. I use smoked trout for a refined mousse to pipe on blinis: it packs a gutsy flavour. The oiliness of smoked mackerel is lightened with ribbons of pickled cucumber, the tang of creamy sour cream and the gentle grassiness of dill. Punchy horseradish combines successfully with any smoked fish, as does the earthy richness of beetroots. They make for unforgettable flavours, even without a carving trolley.

Salad of smoked mackerel with garlic croutons

Recipes serve 4

400g smoked mackerel

2 lemons

1 dsstsp chopped parsley and chives

1-2 dsstsp thick sour cream

4-5 long bread rolls or a small baguette

A clove of garlic

Olive oil


1. Cleaning the fish (can be done in advance). Lay a fillet, skin side up, on a chopping board in then peel away and discard the skin. This will reveal a dark brown area of flesh running down the centre of the fillet. With the tip of a small knife, scrape this from the surface. Now cut down the centre, along the area you have just cleaned, to separate the fillet into two long sections. This will reveal the pin bones which can then be scraped away. Flake the mackerel flesh into a mixing bowl and repeat with the rest of the fillets.

2. With the aid of a microplane or on the finest surface of a box grater, zest one of the lemons into the mackerel then cut the lemon in two and juice it, adding the juice to the mixture through a sieve. Now add all the herbs and a little of the cream to the fish and stir in well. Taste and if desired add a little more cream or lemon juice. You can at this point add a few twists of fresh ground black pepper, but there should be no need to add salt.

3. This mix can be made to this point in advance, covered tightly with cling film and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before using.

4. To make the croutons, slice bread thinly with a serrated knife and lay on a wire rack set over a baking tray. Drizzle olive oil over then place in a pre-heated oven (180C) until light golden brown, (5-7 minutes). Remove, rub them lightly with the peeled garlic clove then allow to cool. Once completely cool, these can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 24 hours.

5. To serve, arrange a stack of croutons on one side of each serving plate. Using two large dessert spoons, make scoop shapes of the smoked mackerel mixture and arrange next to the croutons. Zest the remaining lemon over each plate. You can scatter with chopped parsley and also serve with some slices of radishes for a peppery crunch.

Smoked trout and rocket salad with buttermilk and chive dressing

For the dressing:

5-6 tbs buttermilk

4 tbs mayonnaise

1 dstsp horseradish sauce

3 tbs finely chopped chives

4 tbs olive oil

For the salad

150g rocket leaves

4 heads little gem

2 Granny Smith apples

1 lemon

4 fillet of smoked trout

5 dstsp chives cut into 2cm-long batons


1. Dressing: combine buttermilk, mayonnaise and horseradish in a bowl and whisk. Drizzle in the olive oil slowly, so it emulsifies, then stir in the chives. Season and taste, adjusting as required. Set aside for now.

2. Peel away the skin of the smoked trout then remove any pin bones with tweezers. Flake the flesh into a bowl and set aside for now.

3. Cut of the root from the gem and shred the leaves finely. Place in a bowl then add the rocket. Cut the apple in batons (it's fine to leave the skin on), and add to the salad leaves. Zest the lemon over the leaves and squeeze the juice over the fish. Now add half the dressing to the fish and toss briefly to coat. Add this fish to the salad leaves and toss with a little more of the dressing. Arrange the fish and salad mixture in a large serving bowl or dish and drizzle the remainder of the dressing over the top. Scatter with the chive batons and serve at once.

Geoffrey Smeddle is the chef patron of the Peat Inn, by St Andrews, Fife, KY15 5LH 01334 840206