There’s something amazing about curing and smoking. I’m always really surprised that people think it is something that’s hard to do when actually the opposite is in fact true. It does involve a bit of time, and therefore a bit of patience, but once you get the hang of it it’s a great way of lengthening the shelf life of a product and also adding a lovely smoky layer of flavour.

The process of curing withdraws moisture. This is because the salt in the cure attracts water to it via osmosis. During this process the protein structure of whatever is being cured (in this instance fish) gets broken down and after the cure has been washed off leaves a sticky invisible layer called the pellicle. It is this pellicle layer that allows smoke to penetrate into it and give that lovely flavour profile.

Being a fisherman I do tend to end up with more than one or two trout or mackerel and the following technique and recipe work perfectly for both. If you make up a large batch of dry cure it will last indefinitely. You can then use this to ‘quick’ cure your fish, 10-15 minutes will easily be enough before giving it 15 or so minutes on your hot smoker. And hey presto, you have the most amazing smoked fish that you can eat for breakfast with scrambled eggs, flake into a salad or as we are doing here, make into a delicious pate to have on blinis as a canape.

Give it  go – you really wont regret it!!

Smoked Mackerel and Blinis

Dry Cure

500g salt
500g sugar (white or dark) 

10 bay leaves
20 juniper berries
20 black pepper corns 

1 tbsp coriander seeds 
5 star anise.

Dry roast the spices, half grind and add to the sugar and salt, mix well.

This will last in a plastic tub indefinitely.

Quick Hot Smoked Mackerel/Trout

Mackerel/Trout fillets 

Dry cure mix

Take a small plastic tray or something similar that is large enough to hold the fish in a flat layer.

Scatter some cure on the base of the tray

Lay the fish on top and scatter over some more of cure.

Allow the fish to salt for 12-15 mins

Rinse the cure from the fish under a cold running tap; then pat dry.

Hot smoke the fillets over a gentle heat for around 10-15 minutes

Allow to rest before serving.

Smoked Trout/Mackerel Pate

Hot Smoked Mackerel/Trout Fillets (you will need 4 mackerel fillets)

150g cream cheese

1 teaspoon hot horseradish

Lemon juice

Fresh black pepper

Make sure you have taken the skin off your smoked mackerel/trout filets, then place in a food processor with the cream cheese and horseradish. 

Blitz into a course pate and then add the lemon juice. Blitz again and taste (if you like your pate with a little more heat then add some more horseradish.) Add a good few twists of black pepper and eat with crusty bread or savoury drop scones.

Savoury Drop Scones (Blinis)

250g self raising flour (you can also use wholemeal SR flour)

½ teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of sea salt

2 finely chopped spring onions

2 eggs

300ml milk

Add the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the eggs and the milk.

Whisk vigorously until you have a nice thick batter.

Add the chopped spring onions.

Place a non stick frying pan over a medium/hot heat and add a few drops of oil.

Dollop tablespoons of batter into your pan (depending on the size of your pan, you should get 3-4 in at once)

After a minute or so they should start to “bubble” – flip them over and cook for another minute or so.

Transfer them to a warm plate and cover with a tea towel while you cook the rest. (this recipe makes around 15-20)

Written by Bod from Vale House kitchens