Seaside communities started smoking fish using local wood and peat from bogs across the country. Peat (or turf) has a rich history in Ireland, used originally to fuel homes and were formed under the glacial lakes of Ice Age Ireland, where dead plants and trees were slowly broken down in waterlogged bogs over thousands of years. Alison uses the turf direct from her family’s bog in County Offaly in the the midlands of Ireland and combines it with the flavours of the Irish coast.
Fish Mongery - Learn to break down a whole hake which has both a round and flat bone structure. Once mastered, you'll understand the basics of how to fillet both a flat and round fish.
Brining - Learn the science behind brining and how we use it to lock in moisture and tenderise meat or fish.
Hot & cold smoking - Learn how to apply hot and cold smoking techniques to the same recipe by creating two zones of heat in your BBQ.
For the brine:
For the artichokes:
For the sauce:
1x BBQ or smoker, 3x saucepans, 3x trays, 1x whisk, 1x sieve, 1x knife, 1x chopping board, 1x fish slice/spatula, 1x scissors, 2x large containers, 2x tablespoons, l 1x small metal tray, 1x palette knife/fish slice, 1x tongs, kitchen paper, parchment paper, foil
No pre-lesson preparation needed.
Let's start by preparing our hake. Firstly, cut behind the pectoral fin all the way down to the belly removing the top part of the belly away from the head and then continue to cut all the way to the top of the spine. Flip the fish over and repeat the same cut on the other side.
We will now be making a cut down the centre of the fish following the line of the spine and fins. Make a large cut following that line from the head to the tail, exposing some of the flesh (feel free to move the fish around if it's larger than your board). Now go back to the top of the spine and go back in with a cut that goes along the bone. Your Knife should be pointed slightly inwards and as you're making these cuts, you should hear the knife going against the bone. Following the line down the fish, continue your cut to the tail of the fish which will continue to remove the meat away from the bones.
As you have begun to expose more of the bone structure, you will see the rounded bone. What you want to do is remove the flesh from the rounded side by cutting along the curve of the bone until the bone structure becomes flat and the top, meatier part of the side of the hake is removed. Now, in a similar fashion to the end of step 2, cut along flat to the bone to the tail and release the very end of the tail, this will leave us with just the belly attached to the bone. Continue to cut into the fish towards the belly which will release the fillet from the bone. Place on the tray and let's remove the second side.
Firstly have a wipe down of your board, knife and surrounding areas. Taking some scissors, remove the fins at the tail end of the belly and place in a waste bowl or tray.
With the filleted side of the fish facing up, use your hands to feel the bones. Once you feel the bone structure, lightly pull the fillet away from the bones. Place your knife under the bone (right up near the head) and make a cut that pulls out and away from the fish. Now use your fingers to start to remove the fillet from the bone. Once the second fillet has started to come off the bone, place the fish onto its belly so the spine is pointing up.
Now the fish is on its belly, take your knife and cut alongside the spine cutting the top part of the fillet away from the bone. Use your hands to pull the fillet away from the bone - this should come away really easily but if there are any parts of tough sinew, use your knife to cut it away. By now you should be at the end of the curved bit of bone and be seeing the change between the bone structures.
Once you see that change, lay the fish back on its side so the fillet is now touching the board and take your knife and cut the fish away from the bone releasing the belly. Now really gently lift the centre bone and cut underneath with your knife pointed up and following down the bone. If like me you needed to get a better look, flip the fish over and with your knife pointing down on the bone run the knife along the bone and pull out at the tale end of the fish, removing the second fillet. Now we should have 2 fillets of hake, a clean skeleton and some fin trimmings. With your hake set to one side have a clean down of your area before going onto the next step.
Take one of your fillets and examine the structure of the fish. For this recipe we are going to be using the top meatier part of the fillet which has the belly still attached. Taking your chefs knife, cut away the belly of the fish, only removing the dark part of the fish. If you notice some bones near the top of the fillet we will remove those shortly. Once the belly has been removed you'll get a better angle on both the bones and blood line. To remove the bones take your knife behind them and simply cut them out and place on your waste tray/bowl, next remove the blood line by cutting it away leaving as much meat as possible on the fish.
Now let's trim our fish so we have a clean portion for our plate. Cut the very top of the fillet away so we have a straight clean edge, next let's cut our portion. From the top of the fillet cut a 5-6 inch piece of our fish, once cut, turn it over so the skin side is facing up (this will give us the chance to see if there is any excess skin to be trimmed), pull the skin taut and flip the portion back over. Cut away the excess skin, have a feel for any bones and if there are any, cut them straight out as we did earlier or simply pull them away. Once the bones and skin have been trimmed away, our first portion of hake is good to go.
Now, let's prepare our second portion. You will notice on the second fillet, fins run down the centre of the fish, simply remove those with your scissors. Next, remove the belly and any bones that have been left behind, do this in the same fashion as we did on our first fillet and then portion the fish to the same size as our first (feel free to use the first piece as a guide). Place the fish in the fridge and get ready to light your barbecue.
Now let's light our BBQ. In this recipe I am using turf which has come straight from my family's bog but the easiest would be to use lump-wood charcoal as an alternative.
In the barbecue light your turf/charcoal on one side with food safe firelighters (keep a good amount of air circulation around the barbecue). Leave it for a good 5-10 minutes until they become really white and hot. Once you can see this starting to happen leave to heat for another 20 minutes or so and head back inside to prepare your brine.
While the barbecue is coming up to temperature we are going to create our brine as well as wrap our artichokes. To a high sided pan, add the water and bring to a simmer. To the water, add your aromatics, sugar and salt - give this all a mix and allow the sugar and salt to dissolve fully and re-hydrate our seaweed. Once dissolved, pour into a large container and place into the fridge to chill. While this is coming down to temperature, prepare the leaves and artichokes.
On a stove heat some water with a pinch of salt, while our water is coming to the boil prepare our leaves. Trim the stalks away from the leaves (sea beet or spinach) and place into a waste bowl. Once the water has come to the boil, add the leaves to the water and cook for roughly 10 - 20 seconds just to take some of the rawness away and make them more pliable when wrapping our artichokes.
Check your brine and see if any of the salt is still visible, if you can no longer see it, pour into your container and place in the fridge and chill below 5°C.
Once the leaves have cooked, place them directly into some ice cold water to stop the cooking process and keep the green colour. Once they are chilled, get ready to wrap the artichokes (check my notes to see how to peel Jerusalem artichokes).
Onto your board take a sheet of foil and place 4 or 5 of your leaves (or enough to wrap around the artichoke). Place the artichoke on top along with a drizzle of oil, salt and pepper. Now place another leaf on top and roll in the foil. Repeat across all the artichokes.
Go back to your fridge and grab the now cold brine and your portions of hake, they should both be cold to the touch. Place the fish in the brine and leave for 20-30 minutes in the fridge. After 20 minutes head outside back to your barbecue.
Once we're outside by our barbecue make sure all the coals have become white. If they are, let's get ready to cook our artichokes, cold smoke the butter and hot smoke our fish. Firstly, remove the fish from the brine and onto a clean tray lined with some paper, make sure to remove any of the aromatics from the brine and place the fish to one side. Grab your artichokes and place them directly onto the coals, giving them a little shuffle so they sit comfortably. Take a small tray and place it directly onto the coals pushing down so it sits flat and leave it to pre-heat. If you haven't already, make sure you have some parchment paper cut that will sit in your tray and stop the fish from sticking. Once the tray is roasting hot, sit the paper in the tray along with a good helping of oil. Add the hake skin-side down and press down for a couple of seconds.
Once the hake has started to sear, place the cubed cold butter into the cold zone of your barbecue (if you have a larger BBQ than mine, you will be able to leave your butter to smoke longer before it melts). Close the lid along with any vents and leave for a couple of minutes before checking the butter. After a couple of minutes, remove the butter and place back in the fridge. Move your fish from the coals to your cold zone and leave to carry on cooking for 5 minutes with the lid and vents closed.
After the 5 minutes have passed, open up your barbecue and take out the fish. Turn the fish over so the skin side is facing up (I recommend doing this with a wide pallet knife or fish slice). Place the tray directly back onto the coals and leave to cook with the lid closed for a further 5 minutes. After that time, take the fish out and leave to one side to rest and finish cooking. Next, let's check the artichokes. Take a knife and pierce into the foil and the vegetable, if it goes in nice and easy they are also ready to go. Remove from the coals (with tongs) and place on your tray.
Leave to rest in a warm oven.
Into a deep sided sauce pan, make a reduction. Start with white wine, cider vinegar, sliced shallots and left over herbs (use whatever you have leftover in the fridge). Put this onto the heat and reduce down until you are left with two tablespoons of the reduction. Before adding the butter, pass out the shallots and herbs with a fine sieve into a clean pan. Bring the reduction back up to the boil before adding the cream.
Once up to the boil slowly add the cream and bring back to the boil once more. Now, slowly start adding the butter one cube at a time, pulling off the heat as and when you need to. After that initial boil, reduce the heat to medium and whisk in a couple of cubes of butter until it's fully melted. Repeat this process bit by bit until all the butter has emulsified. Now all our butter is emulsified and we have a velvety like sauce. Taste your sauce and season it accordingly with white pepper, sugar, salt and a squeeze of lemon, balancing out all of the flavours in the recipe. Taste again and leave it somewhere warm until we need to plate.
Take the fish and artichokes out of your oven and begin to unwrap the artichokes from the foil. Top and tail the artichokes removing any really charred leaves and place to one side. Similarly with the fish, remove a thin slice from either end and place alongside the artichokes. Season the vegetables lightly with salt and then we are ready for plating.
Place the fish slightly off centre, with the artichokes to the left of the fish. Now all that is left is our sauce. Take a tablespoon and flood the middle of the plate and enjoy!
Ensure enough time is left to light the barbecue before finishing all of your preparation. Removing the rack of your bbq, light your turf or coals on one side - this will create two smoking zones (one hot, one cold).
A hake is a round fish with quite a unique structure to it. Towards the head and the upper half of the fish the bone structure is curved which we will work around before then working our way flat towards the tail of the fish.
The meat on the hake will go all the way up to the head where you will see a natural point at the top of the spine.
When working with fresh fish you will often find the slime can make it difficult to work with so make sure you have a clean damp cloth handy to wipe the fish, your board and knife.
When working with fish it's important to work with long clean cuts and also keep the knife pressed as closely to the bone as possible, this will help us take as much meat off the bone as possible and not damage the flesh on the fillet.
This may seem daunting to begin with but take your time making sure you pause and rewind the video where needed.
When using your hands to initially pull away the second fillet, feel free to cut any connective tissue that is proving to be a bit more stubborn.
When doing the second fillet it's important to use the knife for our first cut that removes the top of the fillet away from the spine. After this cut has been made you can then remove the rest with your hands.
Again take your time on this part, making sure you pause the video and rewind where needed.
When cutting at the tail end of the fish where the bone structure becomes flat, you are cutting up into the bone, rather than down into the bone.
The fish will move to your wanting so don't be afraid to move it about to get a better look at what you are doing.
Hake is a lovely meaty fish with a delicate flavour, the bones however, aren't great for making stocks as it will produce a cloudy liquid, what you can do is use another prime fish's bones such as John Dory or Turbot and then supplement your stock with the hake bones.
With the fillet of hake on our board you should will be able to see how the fish changes in structure from a round fish to a flat fish. The top meatier part of the fillet (which at this point should still be attached to the dark belly) is round in shape, this is the part of the fish we are using for this recipe. The tail end of the fillet is much flatter and not as meaty.
Once you have mastered hake it will be easy to start preparing other fish such as monk fish which has the same bone structure.
There can be a blood line that runs between the meaty part of the fillet and the belly, don't be afraid to cut this away.
The rest of the hake can be used for several different things from currys to salads. Take a look at my get creative section for some ideas.
When removing the fins I tend to work from the tail back up to the head of the fish as it makes it easier to work with the fins that tend to be very sharp.
When working on the second side of hake you may notice some bones along the top of the fillet, remove these bones by cutting behind them and removing from the fish.
You may see once the hake is prepped, some silvery tissue over the fish, unlike on land animals such as beef or pork this tissue is much more palatable and will dissolve at a much lower temperature roughly 50-55°C (on land animals it is much nearer 100°C for a considerable amount of cooking time).
When lighting your bbq make sure you have two distinct cooking areas, one for hot smoking our fish and a cooler area away from direct heat which is where we will cold smoke our butter.
When you see the coals beginning to turn white either leave the barbecue uncovered or cover with the lid with the air vents wide open.
Turf is steeped in cultural history across Ireland and has been a part of my family for many years, but it may be difficult for you to get ahold of. Feel free to use charcoal instead.
Brining is a technique that can be carried across all different types of fish, meat and poultry. It is the process of immersing the meat or fish in a salt water solution (usually 3-6% salt by weight) and left for anywhere from 30 minutes to two days. Brining has two effects on our fish. Firstly, working away at disrupting the protein structure. Secondly, the inclusion of liquid with the salt (opposed to a dry salt and sugar cure that you saw in the last two weeks) results in the protein having better water holding capabilities in the muscle, which then absorbs the liquid from the brine.
This disruption also increases the ability of any aromatic flavours to be absorbed into the fish which will allow for lots of creativity in future recipes. It is also worth noting that brining reduces the weight loss in the cooking process by roughly half. The disruption that occurs to the protein also results in a more tender mouthfeel due to the proteins being unable to fully coagulate.
The seaweed provided to you is called Wakame from the Atlantic ocean and it will arrive in your specialist box dried and ready to go straight into your brine.
Im using seabeet leaves. These leaves which are often called a cousin to spinach can be found across the UK. You can find them at small independent green grocers or a great alternative you can use is wild spinach.
When cooking the leaves, don't put too many in at once. The reduction in temperature will mean the leaves sit in the water for too long.
Peeling the artichokes is super simple and can be done in a few different ways, from scrubbing with a cloth, to a teaspoon or a speed peeler - just make sure once peeled they are dropped in acidulated water to stop the browning process.
Once you are confident with wrapping the artichokes, feel free to copy me by doing them all at once.
Feel free to top the barbecue up with more coals if needs be, just make sure to leave a couple of minutes for them to start to come up to temperature.
Make sure you have the equipment you need before heading outside to your barbecue. Your butter should be in a small dice (so our sauce is easier to make) and sat in a tray, some paper lined trays for our fish as well as a small tray that we will cook our fish in.
When you are placing the artichokes into the fire, make sure they are seated well in the flames. After a few seconds you will also hear a crackle from some of the oil leaking out, don't worry this will help heat our fire further.
When cooking the hake on our tray, we are using a couple of key techniques that will really elevate our dish and also be really useful across a large variety of different recipes. Firstly, cooking directly onto the coals with the tray replicating a pan but still allowing all the flavour into the fish. Secondly, pressing the fish down for the initial cooking process, helping us achieve an even sear.
Once you have taken the fish out, you will notice it has really changed colour, taking on the smokey colour and flavour from the barbecue. At this point the lower half of the portion will have cooked more than the top half.
To check our fish is cooked, press lightly and if you feel your finger could press through, the fish it is ready to go (you may also feel the flakes of fish separate below the skin which is also a good sign of it being cooked).
Once we have moved back inside, place the fish and artichokes into a warm oven, leaving it to rest and stay at serving temperature.
In my sauce, I use 100ml of cream to create a looser sauce to plate with. If you would like to create a thicker sauce omit 50ml of cream.
For the sauce, the butter needs to be really cold for it to work. Feel free to place it in the freezer for 5 minutes to get the temperature to come right down. Dicing the butter also allows us to add it in gradual stages, and control our emulsion.
You are looking to keep the butter sauce at a boil so bubbles can be seen on the surface of our sauce.
A typical butter sauce with a vinegar reduction can be a volatile thing, with separation accruing if we heat it up too much (usually above 58°C or so), however the addition of cream at the beginning will make our sauce more stable and allow us to heat it to a much higher temperature.
The use of sugar and acid to balance a sauce can be seen throughout many cuisines, from tart tomato sauces in Italy to rich butter sauces in France. This technique is called a gastrique and has a variety of forms but in its simplest form it's adding equal amounts of acid and sugar to balance the sweetness and acidity in a sauce.
Some of the leaves on the artichokes will remain stuck to the foil, this is no problem. I would also suggest trimming any charred parts of the leaves away from the artichokes if you're going for a more uniform plating.
Per portion we want to serve two and a half artichokes and one portion of hake.
Don't be afraid to get creative with your plating and garnishing with micro-herbs, edible flowers or herbs. I like to keep my presentation simple and let the ingredients speak for themselves.