Hot Smoked Salmon Paté | Just 3 Ingredients

A few weeks back I shared the recipe for my Smoked Mackerel & Wasabi Paté which I made to take along to a friend’s sake party.

The other dish I made was a second fish pate using hot smoked salmon. Once again, this no-cook recipe combines just three ingredients. It’s incredibly quick and easy to make and really delivers on flavour.

Hot Smoked Salmon Pate on Kavey Eats (c)Kavita Favelle (Text1)

Don’t worry too much if your supermarket sells hot smoked salmon or crème fraiche in slightly different quantities – as long as you are reasonably close to the ratios below, the recipe will work just fine.

Hot Smoked Salmon Paté

This fish paté is very quick to make and perfect to take along to social gatherings when you’ve been asked to bring something that doesn’t need cooking or heating once there. If making to take to a party, I double or triple the quantities below. If not being eaten straight away, store in the fridge until needed. It will last 2-3 days.


185 grams hot smoked salmon
150 ml crème fraiche
40 grams finely sliced spring onions, white and greens

Note: I use full fat creme fraiche for this recipe but as there’s no cooking or heating, you could certainly substitute low fat. You may need to use a little less as the low fat version is sometimes a touch runnier in texture.


  • Peel the skins away from the hot smoked salmon fillets – they should come away very easily.
  • Use your fingers or a fork to break up the fish into a mixing bowl before adding the crème fraiche.
  • Use a fork to combine, breaking down any larger pieces of fish as you work and continue to work the mixture until the fish is thoroughly broken down and distributed through the crème fraiche.
  • Add the spring onions and mix thoroughly again to ensure they are evenly distributed.
  • Serve with toast or crackers, or refrigerate until needed.


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Hot Smoked Salmon Pate on Kavey Eats (Pinterest)




Rex & Mariano | Superb Seafood in Soho

Rex and Mariano has been making quite an impression since it launched earlier this year. From the same group as famous steak restaurant Goodman and enormously successful proto-chain Burger & Lobster, the new fish and seafood restaurant is named for two key suppliers involved in the venture – Rex Goldsmith aka The Chelsea Fishmonger and Mariano, the semi-anonymous father of a Goodman employee, responsible for importing red prawns and other seafood from Sicily.

Key to the concept is serving seafood at accessible prices, certainly far lower than is the norm in Central London.

In a quiet pedestrian street that runs between Dean and Wardour, Rex and Mariano is already a Soho favourite, despite it’s tucked-away location.

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One innovation I thought I’d hate in fact worked very well; orders are placed directly by customers by way of an iPad, though a traditional printed menu is provided on arrival as well. The interface has been well designed – swipe sideways to page through the menu sections, touch a plus button to select an item, enter a quantity and tick to add to your order. An easy-to-find banner button allows you to call for assistance at any time, whether you have questions about the menu or simply need more cutlery. At any time, you can view your total bill thus far and you can review your current order before placing. It’s best to order a few dishes at a time, since most arrive very quickly indeed.

We had to laugh when, mere moments after discussing our greediness, we placed a second order only to be interrupted with a message that our order was “getting quite large” and we might like to send some through now and order more “in a bit”. We took heed and ensured each round was limited to three or four dishes.

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Most of the menu is, as you’d imagine, fish and seafood. But I am a sucker for good burrata not to mention good tomatoes. The burrata, smoked tomato, focaccia (£6) was superbly creamy, with just the right level of smoking to fresh, ripe tomatoes and the focaccia served simply to provide a crisp toast underneath.

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The raw fish page is split into Ceviche, Tartare and Carpaccio, each of which feature tuna and sea bass. Salmon and lobster also make an appearance. Our salmon carpaccio, olive oil, lemon, tomato and basil (£7.50) is fresh, simple and benefits from a light touch with the dressing.


Lobster ceviche with coriander, fennel, yuzu, orange (£12) is very generous for the price. Large and juicy chunks of lobster meat and thin slices of crunchy fennel are deliciously dressed with coriander leaves and a yuzu orange dressing – both MiMi and I are big fans.

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Oh the red prawns from Sicily! Red prawns raw/ cooked, lemon, olive oil, salt (£10) – doesn’t that make you salivate? We might have ordered this dish twice. OK, fine, we did. And to be honest, we could probably have eaten a third plate quite happily had we not agreed to restrain ourselves just a tiny bit! Also available cooked, we opted for the raw option both times and were blown away by the sweet, sweet flavour – lovely against the slightly grassy olive oil.

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Clams, white wine, parsley, chilli (£7) were simply cooked and decent. If I’m not sounding excited, don’t take it as an indication that they were anything less than delicious – they just had a lot of strong competition! Perhaps a bowl of soft fresh bread to sop up the juices might be welcome with these.

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Sicilian Large Stripe Prawns, lemon, red chilli, parsley, olive oil (£14) were another favourite. Expensive for four prawns yes, though each one was pretty large. The tails were perfectly cooked to retain their juiciness and sucking out the heads of these beauties was an absolute must! We ordered this dish twice too and although the prawns were larger second time around, there was a dearth of the delicious sauce that drenched the first plate and added such excellent flavour.

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Fritto Misto, old bay, lemon aioli (£9) – oddly listed under the Grill section of the menu – was very good, as good as I’ve had in London. It suffered in comparison against the revelatory raw and cooked prawn dishes and that lobster ceviche but that’s probably a little unfair. Ours had plenty of squid rings and tentacles (I love the tentacles best), whitebait and white fish but only one solitary prawn on the entire plate.

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We probably shouldn’t have bothered with either the fried courgettes with aioli (£5) or the triple cooked chips (£4) though again, both were very good. Our focus was firmly on the fishy goodness and the vegetables didn’t get much of a look in.

For dessert we skipped the proffered lemon sorbet or chocolate mousse and went back to the raw red prawns and cooked red stripe prawns – a fitting end to a delicious meal.

The homemade Limoncello offered by the manager (after a minor mix up over leftovers) was a fitting finale, and vastly better than cheap commercial versions.

Service was friendly throughout; although the iPad ordering system reduces staff and customer interaction to an extent, staff are attentive and readily available should you need them. A nice touch is that service is added at only 5% – presumably staff can service a lot more tables when focusing on bringing out dishes and clearing away empties.

I mentioned at the start that Rex and Mariano offers seafood at accessible prices and that’s certainly true. That’s not to say this is a cheap restaurant, especially if you’re as greedy for great seafood as MiMi and I, but the quality of ingredients is superb and the prices for what you get are very reasonable. Our bill, with one soft drink each, was just shy of £50 each, though we could have knocked ten off that and still been satiated.

Thank you to MiMi Aye for additional images.

Rex & Mariano on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

Kavey’s Chorizo, Cod & Pea Fish Pie Recipe

Wary of degradation from a slightly longer than ideal stint in the freezer, I wondered what to make with our last portion of last year’s skrei (beautiful Norwegian cod from the Barents sea). Fish pie was on my mind, but I didn’t fancy the cod and boiled egg fish pie recipe we have made previously; and with just short of 600 grams of cod, I didn’t want to make a mixed seafood fish pie either, though I’m sure salmon, smoked fish or perhaps some big juicy prawns would be a tasty combination.

Instead, I remembered how much I like the combination of chorizo and cod in this baked chorizo, cod and potatoes recipe that we’ve made several times.

An idle search on Google revealed surprisingly little variation in fish pie recipes, so I decided to go out on a limb and pull together a recipe using flavours I felt would work well together , even if no one else had combined them in a fish pie before – we made a chorizo, pea and cod filling topped with buttery mashed potato and it was marvellous; definitely one to make again!


I used a full 200 gram Unearthed cooking chorizo, which was a generous amount. Reduce to 100 grams for just a hint of chorizo, 150 grams for a decent hit or stick to my 200 grams for a chorizo feast. We only had 100 grams of frozen peas left, but I’ll up to 150-200 grams next time, as per my original intention. Although cooking chorizo releases some oil as it cooks, I add more to the pan to ensure sufficient flavoured oil to make the white sauce.

Kavey’s Chorizo, Cod & Pea Pie Recipe

Serves 4

100-200 grams cooking chorizo, 1 cm dice
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 pint milk
570 grams cod fillet, skinned and checked for bones
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
Generous knob of butter
1-2 tablespoons plain white flour
150-200 grams frozen petit pois


  • Cook chorizo and cooking oil over a medium flame until chorizo is just cooked through.
  • Remove chorizo from the pan using a slotted spoon. Pour chorizo-flavoured oil into a separate bowl or jug. Set both aside.
  • Heat the milk in a saucepan and poach the cod over a low flame until cooked through, approximately 15 minutes depending on the thickness of your fillets.
  • While the cod is poaching, put your potatoes on to boil, drain once cooked and mash with a little butter.
  • Once the cod is cooked, strain the milk from the pan, set aside in a jug or bowl.
  • Gently break the cod into small pieces, set aside.
  • Combine 3-4 tablespoons of chorizo-flavoured oil with the flour and cook for a few minutes, then add strained poaching milk and simmer until the sauce thickens.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 C (fan).
  • Place cod, chorizo and peas into a casserole dish, pour over the chorizo-flavoured sauce and gently mix to combine.
  • Spoon the buttery mash over the pie filling and use a fork to create a spiky surface.
  • Transfer to the oven and cook until the potatoes brown nicely on top, about 20-25 minutes.
  • Serve immediately.

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I think this recipe is a winner and I’d love you to give it a try and let me know how you get on and what you think!

Need more inspiration? Check out these Ten Fantastic Fish Pie Recipes:

And two related recipes:


Holy Smoked Mackerel, Batman!

Four years ago a course at Billingsgate Seafood Training School changed my life.

If that seems like it might be an exaggeration, rest assured that it really isn’t because, in a roundabout kind of way, it lead to me finally making it to Japan, a country I’d long yearned to visit. That’s a story for another time, but probably goes some way to explaining why I was so keen to accept the school’s invitation to attend one of their newer evening classes.

Known as Every Which Way Techniques, there are a range of courses to choose from, each one based around a seasonal fish or seafood.  In July, crab was on the menu. In September, the theme was scallops. In October the focus will be on Lemon Sole and in November, on Seabass. Our August class was based on mackerel, a fish that’s at its best in late summer.

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Classes are £55 per person for a group of up to 12 people and start at 6.30 pm. During the next 2.5 hours you will learn a variety of skills to prepare and cook the chosen fish. At the end you have time to grab a stool and tuck in to your efforts.

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During the class, our tutor Eithne taught us how to gut and clean out our mackerels, how to fillet  them and what to do if we wanted to cook them whole. With her patient guidance, this seemed very straightforward and all of us mastered the techniques.

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The cooking focused on smoking using wood chip shavings and specialist domestic smokers, but Eithne made clear that we could adapt equipment we would likely already have in our kitchens just as well.

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We smoked fillets of salmon and whole mackerel and also oven cooked fillets of mackerel with a delicious marinade applied, which we mixed from recipes and ingredients provided.

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As an added bonus, when I removed the innards of one of my mackerel, I spotted an intact liver. Asking Eithne if she’d ever cooked one (she hadn’t) I decided to give it a go and see what it was like. Turns out it was delicious, so there’s a top tip for you – mackerel livers for the win!

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We also learned a simple smoked fish pate recipe that Pete and I made the next day with the whole smoked mackerel we brought home with us. It was simple, delicious and I shall definitely make it again.

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Kavey Eats attended the Smoked Mackerel Every Which Way Techniques class as a guest of Billingsgate Seafood Training School.

News: The school have just introduced gift vouchers. Wouldn’t these make a great Christmas gift? The lucky recipient recipient could book onto a course of their choice, on a date that works for them.

Baked Chorizo, Cod & Potatoes

On a rainy day in February, when it seemed that half the country had turned into an inland sea, we unexpectedly found ourselves with over four kilos of incredibly fresh, top quality Skrei (line-caught Norwegian cod).

We’d been expecting a far smaller delivery but a miscommunication somewhere along the line resulted in “individual portions” being swapped out for “kilos”, and we were the happy if slightly bemused beneficiaries of the error. After an hour of carefully cutting three gargantuan sides of fish into portions, double wrapping them all in cling film, labelling them with their weight and squeezing all but a couple of them into an already groaningly-full freezer, I took to the web in search of cod recipes.

My recipe

With the wind outside slamming never-ending needles of cold rain against the thankfully solid walls and windows, I yearned for something hearty, filling and cheering – the weather howled approval of my demand for punchy flavours, plenty of protein, comforting carbs and copious colour.

A recipe for baked cod with chorizo, potatoes and saffron fit the  bill.

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Original recipe

We liked this recipe a lot but agreed it needed quite a bit of tweaking. Against the strong flavours (and colour) of the chorizo, the saffron was lost; I decided it was superfluous. Our sauté pan is pretty large but the half kilo of sliced potatoes was difficult to move around the pan. The potatoes also made it difficult for the heat to reach and soften the leeks in the short time they had to cook before the liquid was added and came to a boil; I decided to cube the potatoes and add the leeks at a much earlier stage. Lastly, instead of plain oil, I used oil that I’d flavoured and coloured with the chorizo to drizzle over the fish before baking.

My recipe

My new recipe was everything I hoped.

Cubing the potatoes made them cook more evenly, and also provided lots of edges and corners to crisp up a little in the oven. The softer leeks integrated much better into the chorizo and potato base. And the chorizo-infused oil gave the baked fish a little extra colour on the plate.


Baked Chorizo, Cod & Potatoes Recipe

Serves 2-3

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
120 grams soft Spanish chorizo*, cubed or thinly sliced
1 leek, white and pale green parts sliced into thin half-discs
500 grams potatoes, peeled and cubed
120 ml (half cup) water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
500 grams fresh skrei or cod fillet, cut into two or three portions as required
Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish (optional)

Note: Spanish chorizo can be purchased either as a fresh, soft sausage that requires cooking, or a harder and drier cured version which can be eaten as is. Make sure you buy the soft cooking chorizo.


  • Preheat oven to 180 °C (fan).


  • Heat three tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large oven-proof pan, add the chorizo and cook over a medium heat until the chorizo starts to change colour, about 2-3 minutes. The oil will take on plenty of colour from the chorizo spices.
  • Carefully retrieve a tablespoon of the cooking oil from the pan and set to one side.

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  • Add the leek and continue to cook for a few minutes, until the leek softens.


  • Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 12-15 minutes, until the potatoes soften a little around the edges.


  • Add the water, salt and pepper and bring to the boil. As the pan is already hot, this should only take a few moments.

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  • Place the pieces of fish over the contents of the pan and drizzle with the reserved chorizo-flavoured oil.
  • Transfer pan to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until the cod is opaque. If your fillets are much thicker or thinner than those shown, you may need to adjust cooking time by a couple of minutes in either direction.


  • Either serve the pan to the table, family style, or plate individual portions. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.


This is a really simple dish to make. Prep (of chorizo, leeks and potatoes) doesn’t take very long and the entire cooking time is not much more than half an hour, so it’s ideal any day of the week.


Kavey Eats received samples of fresh skrei (line caught Norwegian cod) from the Norway Seafood Council.

Fresh Crab & Squat Lobsters

As soon as we drove off the ferry and onto Islay, we headed straight to Lagavulin for the first of distillery open day of Feis Ile 2013. Yes, even before we headed to our self-catering house and unloaded the car!

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There I happily spotted the mobile Seafood Shack and quickly bought myself a portion of fresh crab claws, served with either marie rose sauce or garlic mayonnaise. At £4 for a generous serving, I was in heaven! Pete and our friends wandered around, tasting drams and watching a cooper explain how he makes barrels.

I sat at a table, chatted to the first of many fellow visitors, and attacked my claws with vigour, tapping a toe away to the live music that was often being played.


I determined to enjoy Seafood Shack’s bounty every day of our holiday, though in the end I missed two days – on one they took a well-deserved day off and on the other I arrived at the distillery after they’d sold out and shut up shop! I did, of course, find seafood elsewhere on those two days, so all wasn’t completely lost!


Some days I added a portion of scallops cooked in butter and whisky. Other days I added a pint of squat lobster, a crustacean I’ve not encountered before but quickly came to adore; easier to split open with a hard thumbnail or plastic knife and flesh that is sweet and utterly delicious…


The annual whisky (and music) festival is held at the end of May and this was our third time attending. You can read more about the various open days on Pete’s blog. This summary post contains links to a full post on each one.

We plan to go back again in another couple of years, and I’ll be looking forward to finding the Seafood Shack there when we do!

Cooking with Cod: Norwegian Skrei

I’d never heard of Skrei until I was contacted by the Norwegian Seafood Council about it. Apparently it’s “a very special type of cod, line caught, and a much loved Norwegian delicacy”. As far as I can tell, skrei is actually just the Norwegian word for cod, though I can’t work out whether it’s Atlantic Cod, Pacific Cod (unlikely), Greenland Cod or some other species entirely. It doesn’t help that Google Translate tells me that torsk is another Norwegian word for cod, but doesn’t differentiate between it and skrei.

Still, I’m hooked by the information that it’s line caught – which I know has a massively smaller environmental impact than trawling with massive nets, as there is less bycatch (of unwanted species and undersized fish). Of course, I’ve read that cod is one of the species that has been overfished and should therefore be avoided until stocks recover, but I’ve also read that sustainability depends on which region or fishery it comes from and some cod fisheries are alright. It’s confusing and makes it hard to know what the responsible choice is.

The press release also tells me that skrei annually migrate thousands of miles from the Barents Sea to the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway to reproduce, and this long journey through icy waters results in a “lean, bright white firm flesh [that] is rich in protein, vitamins and minerals”.

It goes on to boast that top chefs Mitch Tonks and Michel Roux Junior both love skrei, with the latter featuring it on his menu for the last two years. I complete the unstated suggestion – that if it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for me – and accept the kind offer to review a sample.

The cod fillets are firm, plump and a pleasingly subtle shade of ivory. As you’d expect from fresh fish, they have very little smell at all. They’ve not been pin boned very well so we make a slight mess of them trying to pull out a couple of large bones, before cooking.

We make three meals with the fish:

  • An adapted recipe from the Jekka’s Herbs Cookbook which calls for sea bass and garlic chives but tastes fabulous with cod and regular chives.
  • A fish pie recipe from the The Billingsgate Market Cookbook which bulks out a small piece of fish with hard boiled eggs and leeks, and is everything warm and comforting that a good fish pie should be.
  • And lastly, beer battered fish and chips, which we discover is an excellent way to appreciate the texture of the fish, as it stays moist and flaky inside its protective coating.

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Norwegian Cod & Chives Stir Fry

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Beer Battered Norwegian Cod and Chips

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Norwegian Cod Fish Pie

Whilst we really enjoyed all three meals, I’m not sure whether we would have noticed a huge difference had we used a different white fish such as hake, haddock or pollock.

Of course, as I said above, it’s not as simple as some species being ok and others not, but a case of taking fishing method and area into account too. The Marine Conservation Society’s website, Fish Online, is an excellent resource for anyone keen to eat great fish and protect our marine environment and wildlife.

if you are lucky enough to have access to a quality fishmonger, they should also be able to advise you on which fish you can use for a given recipe or cooking method, and all their produce should be sustainably sourced.


Kavey Eats received review samples of Norwegian skrei.


Addendum – following my original post, I was sent some additional information about Skrei, which I wanted to share with you. I’ve summarised it below:

Hundreds of millions of Norwegian cod make the migratory journey I described above but only a small percentage of all landed cad meet the standards to be branded as Skrei, which is a registered trademark.

To be classified as Skrei the fish needs to be caught fully grown (approximately five years old), have immaculate skin with no scratches, bruises or injuries, be packaged within 12 hours of being caught, be stored on ice between 0° and 4° Celsius and, if sold whole, have Skrei branding fastened to the dorsal fin.

It is fished in the Barents Sea, which can be classified as the North East Arctic, so not Pacific or Atlantic. All Norwegian cod is sustainable – indeed Norway has had cod quotas increased this year because stocks are so strong.

Beetroot & Lemon Zest Home Cured Trout


I planned to make beetroot and lemon cured salmon for Christmas day.

I planned a great many things.

I planned to have a practice run a month or two in advance, trying out two different cures and choosing the one which worked best. No trial run happened. I planned to ask for more advice on recipe variations from expert friends. In the end I turned to recipes found on the internet and had a mild panic about which one to follow. I planned to order one enormous and gorgeous wild salmon fillet in advance. I failed to do so and went with what I could find in Waitrose at the last minute. But the wild Alaskan salmon they’d stocked a few weeks previously was nowhere to be seen, and the farmed salmon looked particularly insipid.

And that’s how I ended up buying two Loch Melfort trout fillets instead. The trout simply looked far more appealing and I decided, with no knowledge to back it up whatsoever, that it would work just as well as salmon for my purposes!

Having found a great many recipes for beetroot cured salmon online, I narrowed my choices down to Nigel, Jamie and Barney (from BBC Good Food).

All three offer fairly similar recipes and techniques featuring the salmon itself, salt, sugar and raw beetroot. Jamie and Nigel add citrus zest and vodka to theirs. Jamie and Barney include a little horseradish too. What varies most in their recipes are the proportions of beetroot, salt and sugar to salmon and how long to apply the cure. Jamie and Nigel both have almost the same salt to salmon ratio, but Nigel calls for more sugar and much more beetroot. Barney’s recipe calls for more sugar than salt and far less of everything against the salmon. Jamie recommends curing the fish for 48 hours, Nigel suggests 2 to 4 days and Barney stretches from 3 days up to a week.

I dithered between the three recipes for a frankly ridiculous number of hours before basing my ratios on the box size of salt I’d purchased, and what my trout and beetroot weighed!

I needn’t have worried so much. The finished trout was both beautiful and delicious. The purple-red and orange colours made it very festive for our Christmas day table but would also make this a lovely recipe to prepare for Valentine’s day.


Beetroot & Lemon Zest Home Cured Trout (or Salmon)

1.5 kg boned fillets of trout or salmon, skin on
350 grams coarse crystal sea salt
200 grams demerara sugar
900 grams raw beetroot
Zest of 2 lemons

Note: Scale the recipe up or down depending on the weight of your trout.



  • Grate the raw beetroot; no need to remove the skin first. I used a food processor which seemed to release a lot of juice. If the beetroot is very wet, drain using a sieve, to remove excess liquid.


  • Weigh the sugar and salt, and add the grated lemon zest. Combine with the grated beetroot and mix well.

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  • In a large dish, lay out a piece of cling film and spread a thin layer of the curing mix over it. Lay the fish, skin side down, on the cling film.


  • Put a much thicker layer of the curing mix over the flesh side of the fillet, making sure all the flesh is covered. As I had two equally sized fillets, I laid the second one flesh side down over the first, and then added a last thin layer of curing mix over the skin of the second fillet. If you only have one fillet, divide your curing mix accordingly, using the majority on the flesh side of the fish.


  • Wrap the cling film around the fish and add two or three further layers of cling film to ensure that the fish is securely wrapped.


  • Weigh down the fish with a flat tray and something heavy on top and place in the fridge.


  • Once a day, check the fish and pour away any liquid that has collected in the dish. You don’t need to unwrap the cling film – the liquid seems to find its way out. After draining, turn the fish over, replace the weights, and return to the fridge.
  • I allowed my fish to cure for 4 days. Based on Nigel, Jamie and Barney’s recipes for salmon, I’d imagine that a period of anywhere between 2 to 7 days would work.
  • Once the curing time is complete, unwrap the fish and scrape away the curing mix using your fingers and some (dry) kitchen towel.

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  • Once wiped clean, the final purple-red colouring of the cured trout will be revealed. Mine had a somewhat mottled effect where more or less colour from the beetroot had stained the flesh.


  • Slice the fish just before serving. I did my best to cut reasonably thin and even slices, slicing the knife downwards at an angle and then along the skin.

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The beautiful purple-red staining had penetrated reasonably well into the flesh, and looked glorious against the bright orange.

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The trout was simply served with lemon wedges, sour cream and undressed rocket leaves.


The second fillet, which was wiped clean at the same time of the first, then re-wrapped in cling film and left in the fridge for another day and a half, seemed to be even darker than the first, though they had both cured for the same length of time. Once back home, I removed the flesh from the skin in four pieces which were individually wrapped and frozen.

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I have wanted to cure my own fish for the longest time, but was always put off by worries of getting it wrong and ruining perfectly good fish. I’m glad that everyone I talked to about it encouraged me to have a go as it was very worthwhile and definitely rewarding. It was also far easier than I imagined!

Do have a go and let me know how you get on!

Delicious Meals from Jekka’s Herbs CookBook

Since I started blogging a few years ago, I’ve not purchased many cookery books, as I’m fortunate to be sent new titles to review by several publishers. But I had a big sort out over the summer and gave several boxes of books, cookery ones included, to various charitable organisations.

After which I treated myself to a copy of Jekka’s Herb Cookbook (as well as Mma Ramotswe’s Cookbook: Nourishment for the Traditionally Built by Stuart Brown, still on the “To Read” pile).


Jekka McVicar is the woman behind Jekka’s Herb Farm, a South Gloucestershire organic herbs nursery specialising in culinary, aromatic, decorative and medicinal herbs. The farm, which celebrated its silver jubilee this April, has over 650 varieties of rare, tropical and native species in its collection. Undoubtedly, Jekka McVicar is the queen of herbs and I’ve purchased some of her seeds for our garden over the years.

In this book she chooses fifty herbs that she loves to cook with and gives a description of each plant, advice for growing it, its history in cooking, any medicinal uses and of course, some recipes. The book doesn’t have any photographs; instead there are pretty illustrations are by her artistic daughter, Hannah McVicar.

Having flicked through when it arrived, it wasn’t until we visited my friend Monica for an August weekend of relaxing, cooking, eating and chatting that I had more time to devote to the book. I took a big bag of several books awaiting review, and popped this one in too as I was so keen to try some of the recipes.

In the end, we tried three recipes from the book over the weekend, and they were all fantastic.

I cooked Sea Bass with Chinese Garlic Chives. Except I couldn’t find any garlic chives so I bought regular chives, and not nearly the quantity specified in the recipe. Some of the pieces of fish broke up a little too much, with my clumsy pan skills, so it wasn’t a prettily presented dish. Nonetheless, the recipe was easy to make and we all really, really enjoyed it. The next time I see a large bunch of garlic chives on sale, I want to try this as Jekka envisaged it!


Pete made Coriander, Mint and Pitta Salad, but instead of breaking our (freshly made) flatbreads up to add to the salad, he served then on the side. With soft tomatoes, crunchy cucumber, sweet sharp onion, the solidity of the chickpeas, my favourite green herb and a simple dressing, this was well balanced and tasty, and once again, very simple.

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And Monica made two loaves of Rosemary Bread. Fabulous, with a good crumb and lovely flavour from the rosemary, like the other two recipes, this is one that will be made again.

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Our experience with these three recipes gives me a strong faith in the rest of the book and there are many, many more dishes I want to try soon.

So much did we like these three recipes that we tweeted our delight (and photos of the dishes) to Jekka who responded with warm thanks for making her family recipes look so wonderful. (That was down to Monica’s camera skills, of course!)

And I was very happy to be able to give my thanks to Jekka in person when I visited her stall at the Abergavenny Food Festival.


Photos by Kavey & Monica.

Jekka’s Herb Cookbook published by Ebury Press is currently available on Amazon UK for £17.50 (RRP £30).

Lee Groves’ Ray Wings in a Pepper & Brown Butter Sauce

In a recent post, I shared our cooking class with chef Lee Groves, during a seafood holiday to Cornwall.

Lee has kindly given this interview for Kavey Eats, and shares his recipe for Ray Wings in a Pepper Butter Sauce, below.


Can you give us a little potted bio of chef Lee Groves? How did you get into cooking? What path has your career taken? How did you get to where you are now? And I remember you telling me that your 2010 Masterchef experience was hugely important to you because it came at a time when you were reevaluating where you were at and where you wanted to be. Can you tell us more about the experience itself and how it shaped what came next?

I always wanted to be a chef, i remember telling a friend at infants school!

I never sat on my Gran’s knee podding peas, or fly fished with my Grandfather, no one else in my family is in the trade, just something I always wanted to do. After 2 years at college, my first job cooking(age 17) was in the local pub, at which I had been working on the bar. But, I knew scampi, gammon and frozen lasagne wasn’t me! Then I was lucky enough to land a job at The Walnut Tree, Abergavenny, under the highly acclaimed Franco Taruschio, one of the hardest things I have ever done, but it was my building block. Three years later, after stints at Gidleigh Park and Gary Rhodes, I returned to Wales. It didn’t last long and at the age of 23 I landed my first Head Chef job in a busy seaside pub just outside Exeter, (I say landed, blagged morelike!).

After a couple of years, a new restaurant was looking for a Head Chef, in the same area…my first proper role in high end fine dining. Even though the accolades came in very soon, the restaurant wasn’t making enough money. That took me to Oxford, where I gained lots of recognition within prestigious guides, it was here I won my first Chef of the Year competition, and then I got the bug. After many competitions, and winning, I knew for definite the sky was the limit.

A few years later, and more accolades later, I found myself out of work, temping here and there was o.k., I wasn’t sure if I actually wanted to continue cheffing and nearly left the industry, but I wanted to get my teeth into something. Then I watched Masterchef 2009, The Professionals, and thought to myself I can do that! So applied online, not knowing what to expect……Then the call came, I had been chosen for the last 36 to be filmed, (out of 10,000), and thought oh! here we go!

4 months later, after alot of blood, sweat, tears and overnight travelling, the fire was back! And I wanted to be better than ever.

Having found Scott & Julia on an advertising website, they were looking for a head chef in St. Ives, the rest as they say is history. After only being open for 18 months now we have won many accoldes and taken St. Ives by storm.

What is your cooking ethos and style?

My cooking ethos is use fresh, don’t accept rubbish ingredients, and half the battle is won. Alot of chefs mask the main ingredients with many sauces and flavours, yes be creative but have confidence in what you are using.

What’s your favourite comfort food or meal?

My favourite comfort food/meal, can vary, from a Fray Bentos pie, to a lovely roast dinner with all the trimmings, fish and chips or a good hot homemade curry.

And what would you cook for a special occasional meal, at home not in the restaurant?

At home I tend to experiment, but for a special meal, it would have to be game, in season, (can’t wait for my first Grouse next week, and the first Partridge in a couple of months time), or a piece of fresh Seabass.

I loved everything you showed us during our cookery classes. But as you know, I was particularly blown away by the ray wings in a pepper and brown butter sauce. Could you give me your recipe and any tips and tricks to achieve the best results?

There isn’t an exact recipe, it’s all about feeling and understanding the ingredients, flame control is very important too, as you don’t want that lovely buttery sauce to split.

So pan fry the freshest ray wing in hot olive oil, season, it should be golden brown, so about 4 minutes either side, add a spoonful of capers or soft mixed peppercorns, reduce the heat, add a good slug of balsamic vinegar, add 3 or 4 nuts of cold unsalted butter, and gently stir in and around the fish to form a glossy piquant dressing, the fish should still be slightly pink on the bone so it peels off into the lovely, meaty strands.

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Our visit to Cornwall was part of a week-long South West Tour courtesy of The Food Travel Company (and Riverford Organic Farms). They are a new company offering specialist trips for food (and drink) lovers, with group departures and customised itineraries available.