Not so long back I visited Cley Next The Sea in North Norfolk, a lovely place and one that I would return to again and again. The village is home to a fabulous Smokehouse, and of course I just had to bring back a sample of their delightful produce home with me. All the smoking is done ‘in house’ and all the fish obtained as locally and seasonally as possible. A true ‘artisan’ producer if ever there was one. If you’re ever in that neck of the woods do stop by, you will not be disappointed.
Now here is a good place to point out that I am the only member of my family to truly enjoy good smoked fish, but, I am on a mission to convert the others. I am convinced this is born not from a dislike of good smoked fish but from the memories of the bright yellow smoked haddock and kippers widely sold throughout the UK.
The starting point — smoked mackerel and spinach tart. I suppose you could refer to this as a quiche but I prefer to call it a tart, I’m not really sure why but I just think it suits the dish better.
Due to the strong, but I hasten to add not overpowering, flavour of the smoked fish very little else is required in terms of flavourings. I simply used a basic quiche mixture of eggs and cream with shredded spinach and flaked fish; I used the peppered smoked mackerel from Cley but regular smoked would work just as well. You could play with the flavourings a little if you wish, maybe swapping the spinach for samphire or cherry tomatoes but definitely no cheese here please.
I have a real passion for using different flours wherever I can, mostly I buy them from Shipton Mill as the quality is superb and the customer service outstanding. This time around I used sunflower & wheat flour to make the pastry. It has a wonderful slightly sweet flavour and I find it gives a lovely nubbly texture to the finished pastry, in addition the sunflower acts as a dough conditioner giving the pastry a really tender crumb. If you can get hold of some of this flour, do give it a try.
The crisp buttery pastry combined with a silky smooth creamy filling made the perfect base to hold such beautifully smoked fish.
I chose to serve the tart with nothing more fancy than a simple green salad and some crusty brown bread.
The bread is an oat & granary loaf. The addition of oats gives an added richness and nutty flavour to the bread, perfectly suited to the sunflower nuttiness of the pastry. The bread has honey added which lends a sweetness and olive oil which helps condition the dough. Adding oil to bread gives a lovely softness and resilience, resulting in a bread with not only a wonderful flavour but a great texture too. This loaf has a tight crumb but a definite springy, light texture to it with a lovely crisp crust, making it perfect for serving along side a main meal, for mopping up sauces, to dunk into soup, for sandwiches or even great toast — an all round good loaf.
Although I created the ingredient list myself I (as per usual) followed Dan Steven’s fabulous Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3 (River Cottage Handbook 3) method for making the bread.