Arbroath is a small run down town on the east coast of Scotland which has only one good thing going for it, the Arbroath smokie. This has been my favourite food for a very long time, I used to love it when the fish van came round on a Thursday when I was a kid and instead of boring (and cheap) fishcakes I would discover that my mum had bought some smokies instead.
A smokie is haddock which has been dry salted overnight and then smoked in a whisky barrel using hardwood to give it its distinctive flavour. It's been prepared like this since the 1800s. It's one of those foods that have been given name protection from the EU so you know when you buy an Arbroath smokie you are getting the genuine article. I know folks dont like silly EU laws but this is a good thing in my humble opinion as a few years ago there were horrible imposter smokies on the market which didnt taste very nice at all.
Smokies are unfortunately not very widely available. Unfortunately fishmongers seem to be very few and far between these days and no fish van delivering to housewives in my area any more. I bought one smokie from the Tesco fish counter last week for £2.99 but they dont always stock them. You can also order a pair to be delivered for £7.95 from arbroathsmokie.co.uk.
Once you get your fish home you will want to know how to prepare them. Well it couldn't be simpler. Because they are already smoked you can simply open the fish up and remove the bone and eat cold or you can add a dollop of butter and some pepper and grill or bake in the oven. I like to do them at a high heat under the grill for a few minutes to crisp the skin up.
The have a very distinctive, yet subtle smoke and fishy taste, unlike any other fish I have sampled. The dark brown skin has a lovely taste although I only eat the burnt bits around the edges. The flesh flakes off easily in lovely creamy morsels which taste divine. The darker bits around the cavity of the fish have a stronger colour and taste as they have been exposed to more smoke. I serve mine with a simple salad and some nice bread which makes a good meal with very little preparation.
These seem to have become a gourmet food over the past few years which is a pity as it's a simple food which everyone should taste. They may not be the most attractive looking fish but are definitely one of the tastiest.
Traditionally smoked haddock.