Smoked salmon is packed with protein and low in fat – very healthy and a perfect ingredient for a zesty pasta dish, tasty canapés or a delicious toasted bagel with cream cheese on a Sunday morning.
So it could well be your best friend during this month of healthy eating and easy cooking.
But how did the smoking of foods begin in the first place, and how can you find the best-tasting smoked salmon? HELLO! Online takes a look and finds out more from smokery expert Mark Firth.
Smoking fish and meat is a cooking method that has existed since time immemorial but one that still gets taste buds tingling today.
Before the invention of electricity and fancy kitchen equipment, smoking was as an excellent way of preserving fish or meat and giving it extra flavour. The methods have advanced over time and food is now smoked for taste rather than out of convenience or necessity.
Unlike some delicacies, it can represent excellent value for money. Because of its rich flavour and texture, just a little bit goes a long way – perfect for this time of year when we could all do with some penny saving.
Smoked foods exist all over the globe with each region polishing their own distinct style, with varying degrees of saltiness, fishiness and smokiness. In the UK it seems we are nearing some sort of perfection.
Mark Firth, managing director of award-winning Chesil Smokery in Bridport, Dorset, says: "I think it’s becoming a more and more popular food movement and the more people that get into smoked food the better."
Salmon can either be hot or cold smoked – the latter is the type we see most often. The hot method is speedier and skips the curing process whereas the cold is first cured then smoked at a lower temperature. He explains the process to HELLO! Online: "The curing is just as important as the smoking and that is absolutely key. So much of the flavour is in the curing."
The cure they use is an enigmatic mixture of various ingredients, namely salt and sugar. They then use English oak and apple wood in their kilns to produce a beautifully sweet and delicate aroma. As well as paying attention to the two-part process, Mark also stresses the importance of using the best ingredients possible: "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. You have to start off with something that is fabulous in the first place."
His salmon comes from the icy waters of the Shetlands where the tides are very strong. He explains: "The fish swim so much more than in other areas where they produce salmon and as a result you get a much leaner, firmer, less fatty fish."
"We like selling ours 'decut' because quite a lot of flavour is in the very edge of the skin. If you cut it diagonally you get all of the gradation of the flavour from the edge of the skin right through to the middle. If you 'long slice' it, the part on the outside will taste different to the part right in the middle. We recommend people buy 'decut' for the full flavour sensation."
When buying smoked salmon look for fish that is on the right side of fluorescent orange and without too much fatty, white marbling.
Although it might seem like indulgent fare, there is little to feel guilty about in terms of nutrition. Salmon, as well as other fish that are fantastic smoked such as kippers, mackerel and trout, are all excellent sources of the all-important Omega-3 oils – proven to boost heart health and brain power.
Home smoking is catching on as part of the nationwide 'DIY' food trend. Mark says: "It's perfectly possible to smoke your own at home and you can build a DIY smokery – you can even make one out of an oil drum. The results may be less certain but they could also be more satisfying at the end of the day."
Mark shared his ultimate serving suggestion – which bodes well for any host wanting a stress-free gathering: "Enjoy it with a glass of white wine, a little bit of bread, a squeeze of lemon and a crackle of black pepper."
Try our recipes with smoked salmon for easy to make, delicious and healthy meals:
Hot smoked salmon pasta
Hot smoked salmon bruschetta with salmon, creme fraiche and red onion topping
Hot smoked salmon with salmon roe sauce
Swedish smorgas with potato salad
Smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel