Smokies (or Smoked Haddock) is well known around the world and well associated with Scotland. However what I did not know was just how different and very much better is a smokie from Scotland itself. From the quality in the fish itself and its texture to the intense smoke flavour it is an extraordinary gastronomic experience.
The original ‘Arbroath Smokie’ hails from Auchmithie, a small fishing village, 3 miles north of Arbroath, not far from St Andrews where we are know and where I had a smokie for lunch and another for dinner – they are that good!!!
Local legend relates the origins of the Arbroath Smokie…
…a cottage in Auchmithie in which haddocks were hanging up to be dried for preservation purposes. Unfortunately a fire broke out and burned the house to the ground. It was then (reputedly), whilst sifting through the ashes, wood, dust and associated debris that the ‘smokies’ were discovered. It stretches the imagination somewhat to accept that having just seen their house destroyed, that the occupants (or anyone else) would be likely to pick up a dust-covered blackened fish, and eat it!
The haddock are first salted. They are then tied in pairs using hemp twine, and left overnight to dry. Once they have been salted, tied and dried, they are hung over a triangular length of wood to smoke. This “kiln stick” fits between the two tied smokies, one fish on either side. The sticks are then used to hang the dried fish in a special barrel containing a hardwood fire.
When the fish are hung over the fire, the top of the barrel is covered with a lid and sealed around the edges with wet jute sacks (the water prevents the jute sacks from catching fire). All of this serves to create a very hot, humid and smoky fire. The intense heat and thick smoke is essential if the fish are to be cooked, not burned, and to have the strong, smoky taste and smell people expect from Arbroath smokies.