I had some time off work and ventured up to the small town of Arbroath to visit one of my oldest and best school pals, Lou. She took me out for an Arbroath Smokie, and I ended up having it for starter and main!
The original concept of the Arbroath Smokie originated not in Arbroath, but in fact in a small fishing village a few miles up the coast, Auchmithie. The village was inhabited by fishermen of Scandinavian origin, thought to date back to when the Vikings came to the area in the 11th century. Around the start of the 20th century, the fishermen started moving to Arbroath, and the name “Arbroath Smokie” was coined. Only Smokies prepared by the traditional methods and within a 5-mile radius of Arbroath can be labelled as an Arbroath Smokie.
An Arbroath Smokie is always haddock. The fish is prepared for smoking by heading and cleaning, salting to draw out excess moisture, washed, and finally tied by the tail in pairs and hung onto sticks. The “Smokie pit” is a hole dug in the ground with half a whisky barrel in it. The base is lined with slates and a fire is lit inside. The sticks of fish are placed over the pit and a hessian cover allows the fire to breath and maintain the right amount of heat. Cooking takes around 30 to 40 minutes, and the result is a beautiful golden Arbroath Smokie.
Our long lunch: triple whammy Smokie!
We decided to go to the Old Brewhouse, a family-run pub and restaurant, nestled in Arbroath’s old harbour. With lots of traditional Scottish fare on the menu, it was difficult to choose; I knew I wanted a proper “genuine article” Smokie for my main, but the Smokie bacon ramekin for a starter looked too good to refuse. So I went for both!
My starter went down very well indeed – flaked Smokies and crisped bacon cooked in a creamy sauce, topped with bubbling Scottish cheddar. What can I say apart from “yum” (as my coronary arteries cry).
Lou went for the cullen skink, a Scottish seafood soup, based on the traditional recipe with prawns and, yes, Smokie! With a cream content of around 70% (at a guess), again, not one for those with health issues. But, very warming and very tasty indeed.
So, onto my Smokie main – haddock smoked in the traditional way in Arbroath, served warm with melted butter, lemon, potatoes and salad: delicious.
Despite being completely stuffed, we completed our meal with “Dream of Rob Roy” – a Scottish Folk hero of the early 18th century, who is also known as the Scottish Robin Hood – vanilla ice cream served with a hot butterscotch sauce, crushed shortbread and topped with whipped cream.