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Questions & Answers

Q: I've just read the tea smoked mackerel recipe and thoroughly enjoyed it. I know that you can smoke salmon but what other fish would be good to smoke?

A: If we're talking about tea-smoking, the short answer is that you can smoke just about anything that will fit in your pan. However, we recommend using oily fish because their more robust flavour tends to withstand the added smokiness better than white fish, whose delicate flavour is easily overwhelmed.

Oily fish include mackerel and salmon (as you mentioned) as well as trout, sardines, carp, pilchards and eel. Tea-smoked oysters work particularly well, and feel free to experiment with other shellfish like mussels, cockles, razor clams etc.

As for actual hot or cold smoking (i.e. as in a smokehouse) almost anything is possible. It's a large and complex subject, but once again oily fish are widely used because their fat is distributed throughout the flesh, retaining moisture and a pleasant texture after smoking.

Q: Why do I need to brown my meat and what is the best way?

A: First, let's bust the myth that browning meat somehow seals in the juices. It does no such thing. Chefs do it to add colour, texture and most importantly flavour to the exterior of the meat.

The chemical processes include a combination of caramelisation and the Maillard Reaction, which involves sugars and amino acids reacting at high temperatures to produce a range of new molecules which we perceive as odour and flavour. The pleasant smell of a burnt match is essentially caused by the same mechanism, and the vast majority of industrial flavouring processes are based on the Maillard Reaction.

The best way will depend on the meat and method of cooking. One of the most obvious and effective of these is pan-frying.

Pour a layer of quality oil (we recommend rapeseed) into a frying pan, and bring it to a high heat (don't be timid). The same basics apply whether you are making a stew or frying a steak; do not crowd the pan with too much meat at once, as this lowers the overall temperature of the cooking oil and results in grey meat. Really hot oil has a caramelising effect on the natural sugars in meat, creating a richly flavoured and coloured crust. If you are browning meat for a stew, recipes usually call for ‘deglazing’ or pouring a liquid (usually wine) into the hot pan after the meat has been browned, which releases any pieces stuck to the pan and enriches the flavour of the stew. Hope that helps!

Q: How come eggs are sometimes easy to peel and sometimes...not a chance?

A: We're with you. Peeling eggs, especially in large numbers, can be a sanity-testing experience. Here is a trick that can sometimes help: as soon as your eggs are sufficiently cooked, put them under the cold tap or into a pan of cold water for 10 minutes. This is called 'shocking' and has the effect of shrinking the cooked egg away from the shell, so it should be easier to separate the two.

If you're eating them right away, just shock for a minute and peel while it's still hot in the middle. If you're peeling eggs for later, let them cool right down and it should make things easier.

Q: How do I know when fish is done cooking?

A: Pan frying is our favourite way to cook fish, but there can be different signs to look out for if you're cooking it another way.

The first sign is the skin turning golden brown, but the best way to know is to examine the flesh. The individual flakes in the meat should be defined but not yet coming apart. The translucency of raw fish flesh should be gone completely and the flesh should be reasonably firm and set. Once the flakes begin to separate, the fish is overcooking.