Thought you might all like this. In case it ever goes off, I’ve put on the whole thing. Libertarians ought to be concerned about the creeping State campaign to abolish food that tastes of anything whatsoever. Also, as bought food becomes scarcer owning to clampdowns on lilberal capitalism and free sale of goods without rationing, people will need to know how to grow, farm, gather or otherwise get their own food, and then how to make it taste nice and also LAST LONGER (there is likely to be less electricity to run fridges, even those which survive the coming endarkenment and are still working:-
Smoked foods: how to make your own
It may be illegal to light up a cigarette in a pub, but home-smoked foods are a trend that’s being ignited.
My father used to smoke Player’s Perfectos. They were short, plump and fantastically strong. I knew this last bit first hand, having stolen a handful when inadmissibly young, and tried them out in a hollow box hedge in the garden. He stopped keeping his cigarettes in a box after that.
I didn’t really resent the smoking – as far as I knew he had been born with a cigarette in his hand – except in the car. Our family car had no back seat belts and, in addition to the wind up windows, little sail-shaped vents that opened outwards; especially convenient for smokers to flick their ash, but ineffective ventilators. On long car journeys, we four children bounced around on the back seat, gradually kippered.
I miss cigarettes in pubs, or at least those people who like a cigarette with a drink. Most days the tumbleweed blows through our local, even though it sells quite decent food. In September this year, the British Beer and Pub Association reported that between January and June, there were 36 pubs closing each week, five per day. It is impossible to predict, with fuel and beer prices so high, what proportion of the blame falls upon the government’s decision to ban smoking in pubs. But why did the pubs kill themselves by never installing proper ventilation? Most just stank.
The only smoke to be sniffed now in restaurants is a whiff of it wafting off a slice of smoked salmon. Occasionally, however, something more interesting is going on with chefs “home-smoking” their own fish, pork and duck. The latest trend is to hot-smoke food over burning tea. ‘Lapsang smoked’ is the thing, turning up in a number of restaurants as a long-lost Chinese method. Salad of tea smoked venison with parsnip and quince was an inviting item on a recent Claridge’s menu.
It does not work, of course. Most recipes for tea smoking insist you combine the tea leaves with rice and sugar and the food tastes like it was stuffed up the chimney of a waste incinerator. I tried smoking over the leaves alone, only to get a less confused, mildly smoky tang. It all became rather expensive, too. For any real effect you need lots.
Using wood chips might not be innovative, but their vaporising resins genuinely transform something relatively humble, like trout or pheasant, into an elegant delicacy. Buy a cheap stove-top smoker (see below), or sacrifice an old roasting pan and metal rack to the tar, using foil for a lid. It is all very easy. A whole fish can take as little as fifteen minutes and a duck breast about 30-40 minutes.
But which foods work and which do not? With raw prawns, I found only the shells tasted smoky. Far better were foods like whole fish and breast fillets from game and poultry, all of which benefit from gentle cooking, after which they taste delicately of the oils in the smoke and are unusually juicy. Slices of aubergine also taste good, if dressed after smoking with olive oil, ricotta cheese and a few toasted sourdough breadcrumbs.
Remember that the hot smoking method ‘cooks’ the food – you will not end up with transparent slices of fish, as with cold smoked salmon. And, once you start smoking your own food, it is a good idea to keep a record of your successes and their related weights and timings, variety of wood chips and any additional herbs or spices.
If there is anything left to say about this easy cooking method, it is the bleeding obvious: remember to open the window.
You can build your own stove-top smoker by placing wood chips in the bottom of a roasting pan, a sheet of foil on top, a wire rack on top of that – for the food – and finally a lid made from foil. I found it better, in the end, to buy a purpose built type.
Stovetop Smoker with Lid costs £43.99 from Nisbets, which can home deliver (0845 1405555; www.nisbets.com This spacious, simple gadget is made from stainless steel that holds the smoke inside without allowing it to escape. It made a good job of my brown trout (see recipe) and duck breasts. As it’s made of steel it warps slightly when hot, which makes the sliding lid a bit sticky, but it is otherwise practical and cleanable. Put the wood chips in the bottom of the pan, lay over a specially designed tray followed by a rack. Oil the rack, put the food on top and then the lid. Place over a medium heat – timings for cooking are provided. Four varieties of wood chip are available: alder, cherry, hickory and white oak – £5.49.
The delicate flavour of brown trout, cooked over alder smoke, turns out to be quite extraordinarily gentle and subtle. Waitrose is the place to go for brown trout from an organic British farm.
Franklins (01767 627644 for prices; www.franklins.co.uk sells duck breasts, quail, game birds and chicken. John Franklin rears, kills and dresses poultry on his Bedfordshire farm. Visit the farm shop or ask for home delivery.