Today, June 21st officially marks the first day of summer and what better way to celebrate than to try smoked foods, one of the summer's hottest food trends. Lockhart Catering share insight into the growing food trend.
Guest article - Lockhart Catering
We’ve come a long way since smoked salmon went mainstream in the Eighties. This delicacy first arrived in the UK during the late 1800s - introduced by East European immigrants to London’s East End who smoked to preserve fish due to poor refrigeration.
Back then, salmon was imported from the Baltic as these smokers were unaware of the availability of wild Scottish salmon each summer. But once they had discovered it at Billingsgate market, its availability and superior quality led to a swift introduction into fine dining and delicatessens – and smoked salmon as a gourmet food was born.
And as time, tastes and trends have moved on, now a whole host of food and drink has had a smoke-over – including beetroot, sea salt, bread, tomatoes, water and even egg yolk. It’s a move attributed to a variety of culinary influences – particularly Nordic food, which takes us back to cooking wood fires.
Here, burning wood is the only heat source in the kitchen and food is cooked in a wood-fired oven or stove and directly over the flames of a fire pit. Specially designed chimneys are used for smoking and baking and, by burning a variety of different Scandinavian woods as fuel, different food flavours are created. Ekstedt’s signature dishes include reindeer baked on glowing embers with smoked ox marrow, sweetbreads cooked in hay and juniper-smoked pike and perch.
Then there’s the Asian influence of charcoal methods of cooking, not to mention the huge barbecue revival – predominantly in the style of Deep South America – which produces the most succulent slow-cooked pulled meats and full-on smoky flavours.
Until recently, restaurants wanting to maximise the smoky revolution – with their menu and bottom line – had to invest heavily in preparation and cooking time. But the latest generation of smoker ovens make it much faster and easier. This means that more outlets are able to take on the trend – offering a variety of dishes cooked and smoked effectively within just a few hours.
Fruit trees – such as apple, peach and pear which reflect the American Deep South fruit plantations – have quite subtle flavours and are ideal for using with fish or poultry. For red meat and game, chips from hickory, maple, oak and pecan trees have been traditionally used to create succulent and tender smoky flavours and textures.
They can also be used on a barbeque to add flavour. Simply sprinkle on coals just before cooking the food or near the end of cooking time to achieve your desired smoky dish. And because of their cost-effectiveness, many chefs are experimenting with woodchip combinations to achieve a signature flavour for different meats, poultry and fish. Many are not stopping at meat, with smoked garlic and other vegetables also making their way on to menus.
And as well as the different flavours created by specific wood types, even more complex combinations are being discovered by using woodchips soaked in wine, beer and whiskey.
So despite being an age-old process serving a practical purpose of preserving food, smoking also brings an entirely new flavour dimension to cooking. Today it’s a tremendously trendy technique that is undergoing a fantastic foodie revival.