Smoked salmon is one of my favourite dishes, great as a starter or a nibble during the evening with a nice crisp white wine. As with most things you get what you pay for and I’m thinking less about the fatty squelchy stuff and more about the lean yielding texture of a healthy salmon.
For The Deli Shack I chose to work with Mike’s Smokehouse for a couple of reasons, but mainly because when I visited them down in Kingsbridge I felt that their passion for fine food matched the flavour of the tidbits on offer that day. One thing puzzled me though after meeting them and that was that they described the salmon as having been ‘farmed in the wild’.
Now that sounded a bit like advertising talk to me so I went and looked up the meaning of the phrase when I got home. Farmed in the wild is a term used to describe fish that are farmed out at sea rather than in the mouths of sea Lochs. The upshot is that the fish are kept in low enough densities to be able to swim with the tides in the Atlantic waters off the Shetland Isles, leading to healthy muscular fish. Wild salmon it may be not, but it’s very good indeed and as about as close as you’re going to get without a second mortgage to fund your appetisers.
Then there was the use of Maunka wood which the guys at Mike’s Smoke House use in their hot smoking process. Manuka smoking originates from New Zealand where the Maori people use the indigenous wood for preserving fresh meats and fish which can’t be used at the time they’re caught. What’s really interesting about that is the fact that in law excess fish and meat can’t be sold on, so basically if you catch it – you eat it. What a fantastic way of going about the business of harvesting from nature.
Mike, after whom the smoking business is named, lived in a Maori community for some time and so after returning to Devon began importing Manuka wood so that he continue enjoying the lovely rich flavour and also share the wonderful stories that he had collected during his time in New Zealand.
A couple of years ago Mike passed the business on to Grant and Sasha who still run it today and from there it’s become one of the great fresh produce success stories in the South West. Another interesting aside for anyone who’s been following these recent reviews, Grant and Sasha, like many other producers I know, actually had a completely different careers before moving to Devon and getting involved with artisan food production. Grant in fact worked for Microsoft as their UK Government development manager and Sasha worked as an events organiser up in Herefordshire.
Winning prestigious awards every year since 2007 from the Taste of the West organisation and being heralded by the Guild of Fine Foods this traditional and no nonsense approach to great food and natural preservation just shows what can be achieved when we follow a few simple rules.
If you’d like to meet Grant and Sasha then they’re at Kingsbridge market first Saturday of the month, or just have a look at their website on www.mikes-smokehouse.co.uk