Whether you are a fan of this salty smoked garlic spiked paste or not it is worth noting that I have yet to buy one that has been as good, or even close, to the one you can make yourself (wait for Fiona’s Chesil version – Ed).Back in the mists of time when I was a proper chef, we used to save all the roe from the pollack, cod, and indeed grey mullet that came our way and once a year the whole lot would be defrosted, salted, hot smoked and then blended with loads of brilliant olive oil, breadcrumbs, harissa (I like it a little spicy…), lemon, cumin and most importantly of all, garlic.
This would then be simply dressed on the plate in a sort of splodge, with a few herbs and a wedge of fresh lemon, a drizzle of the really, really good olive oil and served up with a piping hot charred and fluffy flat bread, we used to put a very small amount on the tables before people ordered and then stand back and field all the orders – it was, modestly (one of Tim’s traits) , really rather fine.
Here, I have suggested the smoked cod roe as Chesil smokery do it so well, but its made with everything from mullet and cod roe to Carp and even herring roe from such far flung places as Turkey, Greece, Venice (though they tend to use vinegar rather than lemon) and Romania. The pale imitation that you will find in those dreaded three packs of “Mezze” in even the finest of multi-site retail outlets will quite rightly turn more people off than on, make it yourself though and it is a joy.
There isn’t really a recipe as such, you have to kind of feel and taste your way through this one and I have to say it is a great idea to allow the roe to warm up to room temperature before you make a start.
250g hot smoked cod roe – take the time to remove any membrane from the outside.
200ml – mor maybe more, good olive oil – but not the best.
2 cloves garlic, peeled and well chopped
4 lemons, the grated zest from ¼ or one lemon, the rest for juice
1 teaspoon cum seeds, toasted and ground
50g good home-made breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon of harissa paste – omit if you don’t like and add freshly ground black pepper instead.
Place the room temperature roe, garlic, breadcrumbs and half the cumin in the food processor and put it onto a moderate spin.
Drizzle in some of the olive oil, stopping and drizzling in a little lemon, add the harissa and keep blending – really you should easily be able to get a good smooth, light and well emulsified mixture going, keep adding oil, lemon juice etc – taste it, see how it feels in the mouth, will it take more oil, is it a bit salty and needs more lemon, has it gone oily and needs a small dash of water or lemon juice to bring it back – will it take the rest of that cumin? Don’t rush, blend it, add things, taste it, keep going until you are happy that what you have tastes salty, Smokey, fishy and divine.
You should store your Taramasalata in the fridge and use it up within a few days, I recommend allowing it half an hour to warm up a bit before serving and a good glug of your very, very best olive oil to drizzle over.
If you are interested the name of the dish comes from the Tarama (Smoked fish roe) and Salata (salad) and is spelled differently from one country to the next, though it is very much the same thing, with the odd variation from one locality to another.