Quick smoked chicken pasta. Photo / Annabel Langbein Media
It never ceases to amaze me just how many pointless kitchen gadgets there are out there.
Should you so wish, you can clutter up your kitchen drawers very quickly with contraptions such as a banana
slicer, a butter cutter, an onion peeler, a mango slicer or a strawberry huller.
Why would you buy any of these things when a small sharp knife will effectively do the job? And what about a banana handle gripper (which holds the banana so you can easily peel it), a box butter spreader (which is used to spread butter on corn cobs), a tuna press (which goes over the opened can of tuna so you can drain it easily) or a corn silk remover (which takes the silks off a corn cob)? This is consumerism gone mad.
There is, however, one kitchen gadget I would hate to be without and that is my portable fish smoker.
Its messy, dirty, hand-smudginess deems it necessary to be housed on a shelf in the garage. But, at the drop of a hat, with nothing more than some untreated sawdust and a little methylated spirits, I can hot-smoke fish or mussels or go a bit gourmet and smoke hard-boiled eggs, salt, tomatoes, chicken or olives. Even duck breasts.
When smoking fish, I usually season the flesh side with a little salt and brown sugar and leave in a shallow tray in the fridge for 1 hour. While the fish is salting, I prepare the smoker, lining the base with tinfoil for easy clean-up, then sprinkling a decent handful of sawdust over the tinfoil. A clean rack for the fish to sit on goes on top.
Once the fish has salted, I pat it dry then place it on the rack and cover with the lid. I fill the fuel dish with about 1 cup methylated spirits, light it and place the smoker on top, ensuring the lid is well sealed. After 12-15 minutes, the meths will have burned out and the fish should be cooked. If it is not, I add some more meths to the fuel dish and re-light.
The fish is cooked when it flakes easily. Leave it to cool in the smoker. Once the fish is smoked, carefully remove the bones. It will keep in the fridge for up to a week and freezes well.
If you don’t have a smoker, you can use a wok or heavy roasting pan lined with tinfoil. Sprinkle a handful of sawdust (you can also use tea leaves) over the base. Fit a rack inside the wok or pan and place seasoned food to be smoked on the rack. Cover very tightly with a double layer of tinfoil, then seal firmly with a lid. Place on stove top over high heat for 5 minutes to get the smoke started, then transfer to oven and bake at 200C for 12-15 minutes. Cool before removing the cover. If whatever you are smoking isn’t fully cooked through, transfer to a clean oven tray and return to the oven for a few more minutes to finish cooking.
Smoked food has a wonderful richness and depth of flavour, meaning a little goes a long way. Here are some ways I like to enjoy it.
Quick smoked chicken pasta
Smoked chicken combined with mushrooms, bacon and creme fraiche makes a quick and tasty pasta meal. It’s always worth buying good quality dried pasta, the texture remains far more intact than cheap pasta.
Ready in 20 minutes
400g dried pasta shapes, preferably bronze-extruded
3 Tbsp olive oil
3-4 bacon rashers, chopped
400g button mushrooms, sliced
1 smoked chicken breast, thinly sliced
250g creme fraiche
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
Cook the dried pasta according to package instructions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add bacon and cook for 2 minutes. Add the sliced button mushrooms and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add drained pasta to the pan with the thinly sliced smoked chicken breast, creme fraiche, cup of the reserved cooking water, lemon zest and chopped parsley.
Add more water as needed to achieve a creamy texture (amount will depend on the type of pasta used) Allow to heat through for a few minutes and serve immediately.
If you don’t have an stovetop-friendly casserole dish, make this in a pot and bring everything back to the boil once rice is added, before transferring to a casserole dish, covering and baking.
Ready in 50 minutes
2 Tbsp butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Zest of 1 lemon
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups basmati rice
2 stalks celery, finely chopped (optional)
2 cups peas
300g-400g smoked fish, deboned, deskinned and flaked
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
Ground black pepper
cup lemon juice
cup cream or creme fraiche
cup chopped parsley leaves
4 hard-boiled eggs, halved, to garnish
Lemon wedges, to garnish
Preheat oven to 200C. Heat butter in a stovetop-friendly casserole dish and fry onion over medium heat until softened. Add curry powder, cayenne pepper, garlic and lemon zest and cook just until fragrant (1-2 minutes).
Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. The recipe can be prepared ahead to this point. Bring back to a boil before proceeding.
Mix in rice, celery (if using), peas, fish, bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Bring back to a boil, stir, cover tightly and bake until rice is tender (30-35 minutes).
Remove from oven and mix through lemon juice, cream or creme fraiche and parsley. Adjust seasoning to taste. Garnish with hard-boiled eggs and serve with lemon wedges on the side.
Smoked salmon and egg gratin
Ready in 30 minutes
Serves 4 as a main course or 5–6 as a light lunch or supper
This is such an easy dish to put together. My friend Emerald made it for us, using a recipe from her friend Fran as the base. I love the way these things go around – when something tastes good everyone loves it. You could put mashed potato on top or a crumb topping such as the one used on top of scallop shells – even layer some cooked spinach through with the eggs and salmon.
4 cups well-seasoned white sauce
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp tomato sauce
1 pinch cayenne
600g boneless, skinless, hot-smoked salmon, flaked into large chunks
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
A sprinkle of paprika
Mix white sauce with Worcestershire sauce, tomato sauce and cayenne.
Flake salmon into a baking dish to cover the base. Cut eggs in half and arrange over the salmon. Spread the sauce evenly over the top. Sprinkle with paprika.
If not serving at once, cover and chill – it will keep for at least 24 hours in the fridge.
Bake at 220C for about 15-20 minutes until sauce is bubbling. Accompany with a crisp green salad.
Match with these…
by Yvonne Lorkin
(Quick smoked chicken pasta)
Trinity Hill 125 Gimblett Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2020 ($80)
Just because this pasta recipe is “quick” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat yourself by slowing down and savoring it with something pretty darn special. Crafted from fruit grown at their Tin Shed vineyard at 125 Gimblett Rd, this incredible chardonnay was just awarded a Gold Medal and 97/100 at the International Wine & Spirits Challenge in London, and it’s just the most delicious thing. Boasting an aromatic hit of smoked almonds, caramelised oak, buttered cinnamon toast, grilled grapefruit and baked nectarine, it’s intoxicating from the first whiff. All those characters osmose on to the palate and merge with finely tuned textures, solid, crunchy-fresh acidity and a powerful mineral-focused core. Heavenly indeed with smoked chicken.
Bald Hills Last Light Central Otago Riesling 2020 ($30)
If Pete Bartle ever makes a riesling that isn’t exceptionally balanced and beautiful, then stick a fork in me, ‘cos I’m done. Sourced from Bald Hills’ Bannockburn site, the single hectare of vines that produced this stunner are planted specifically to soak up the last rays of the late-afternoon sun. The cool, crunchy-crisp nights then capture racy acidity and intensify the flavors of mandarin, lime, creamed clover honey, and ambrosia apples that end up in this wine. It’s pure, cleansing, gum-tingling textures and lemonade layers on the finish work stunningly well with the smoked fish and curry characters of kedgeree.
(Smoked salmon and egg gratin)
Greywacke Wild Marlborough Sauvignon 2019 ($30)
Here’s an absolutely lovely sauvignon that guides you down the softly, smoky side of the street and cloaks your palate in plush citrus and creamy complexity. Crafted from fruit grown in Marlborough’s Southern Valleys in the Renwick, Rapaura and Woodbourne regions, this intensely delicious-yet-delicately stylish sauvignon is laced with marzipan, sugar snap peas, homemade lemonade and loads of luscious, creamy herbaceousness from occasional lees stirring and a splishy-splash of malolactic fermentation. If you thought that sentence was a mouthful, just wait until you try it with Annabel’s smoked salmon and egg gratin. Woof!