River Farm Smokery, Bottisham – home-made taramasalata

This sticky pair of sci-fi slippers isn’t some poor creature’s lungs. It’s my supper – a beautifully smoked chunk of cod’s roe from River Farm Smokery, a couple of miles outside Cambridge. Dan, the smokery’s production manager, contacted me a couple of weeks ago and whetted my appetite with a pack of some exceptionally fine smoked salmon. I dropped in on Thursday and bought a selection of the fish on offer in the smokery’s little shop. (I shall be back shortly to throw myself upon the meat counter and the smoked olives – everything I came home with was seriously, seriously good.)

Cambridge and Newmarket readers take note – this place is on your doorsteps, and if my experience is anything to go by, you don’t know it’s there. Dan keeps a blog about the smokery, on which there is a handy map, so you have no excuse. The shop also carries a really thoughtful range of delicatessen products, and if that’s not enough to convince you, the glorious smoked salmon actually costs less than it does at the supermarket.

Dan showed me around the smokery; I’ll go back soon with a camera. Hot and cold kilns, thick, fragrant tar, bags of oak chippings, eels, olives – and my God, the soft, downright seductive smell of all that smoke. Someone should bottle it and sell it. (It is my sad duty to report that Stilton cheesemakers have done the same and are trying to market the smell of feet as a ladies’ perfume.)

Alongside the smoked salmon, trout, eels and an excellent mackerel pate were more unusual offerings, including these roe – peeled and released from their tough skins in this picture, so you can make out the mass of tiny eggs. Dan says that he sells a lot of these roe for spreading as they are on toast. I decided to use them for taramasalata. Some taramasalata recipes will tell you to soak the whole roe before peeling, but I didn’t find that necessary with these, which weren’t over-salted. If you are in Greece, use pressed, salted grey mullet roe. If, like me, you have never seen a pressed, salted grey mullet roe, go with the smoked cod’s roe. It’s fantastic.

To serve four, you’ll need:

  • 4 slices white bread
  • ½ cup smoked cod’s roe, skin removed
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ red onion
  • Juice of 1 ½ lemons
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Black pepper to taste

Grate the onion and garlic and put in the food processor with the bread, roe, pepper and lemon juice. Whizz until everything is smooth, and with the blades still whirring, dribble the olive oil into the mixture in a thin stream, as if you are making mayonnaise. When everything is amalgamated, transfer to a bowl, and refrigerate for half an hour for the flavours to meld. Serve with strips of pitta bread and raw vegetables. The taramasalata will keep in the fridge for around a week.

While you eat, consider the fact that despite the pink roe and the red onion, this is not remotely as pink as the factory-processed stuff you’ll get in supermarkets and, sadly, in many restaurants. There’s a reason for that. It’s called food colouring. Oh – and Alban, who asked me for more quick recipes, should be pleased to learn that he can make this in under half an hour, so no more excuses; get cooking.