If you think back to when you first started to smoke foods, what advice would you give to someone smoking now in terms of basic equipment? What do people need?
Now you can buy these small smokers online and you can even choose the wood you want for smoking. They’re really easy to find now.
They’re quite inexpensive as well… Yes, they’re not that dear. But like I said in my new book, you can smoke out of a wok by putting a bit of aluminium foil underneath a small/medium rack in your pan, a bit of rice, a bit of green tea, and light it or put it on the gas and it will smoke because of the tea.
Yes, we’ve got that beautiful cod dish of yours that uses that technique…
Yes it’s very nice, it’s very straightforward to do. And the reason I’ve done that is that I realise obviously that not everybody has the materials, not everybody can afford the materials. You need to think about what people in a typical household have, not just chefs in professional kitchens.
Obviously tea is a great option because it’s cheap, it’s easy and it’s accessible but what about for those who are a bit more serious and want to use woodchips?
If you think as a chef, you will think about the environment. So, say you want to smoke a little bit of venison: before you cook it, you will think about the environment in which the deer lives - the woodlands, maybe the low meadows, and then you use the wood found in this environment. I always try and think of the environment. Another example is ham, so pig. An outdoor pig has straw bedding. So, when we used to cook ham in my region we would have a straw bed, smoke it a little bit and then cook it within the straw to give the flavour back.
If you can, it’s nice to think of the environment – what do the animals eat, what do they use, all these kinds of things. People too often don’t think about where their meat comes from – they buy their steak vacuum-packed in plastic from the supermarket and don’t think about where it came from before that.
What vegetables have you had success with smoking? We don’t really smoke too many vegetables here (at The Vineyard) but I guess you could smoke a carrot, for example, and serve it with, say, a nice piece of beef. And after the carrot has been smoked you confit it - make sure it doesn’t fall apart but keeps its lovely shape. Another thing you can do with carrots is to smoke them and cook them with lentils, that goes perfectly well. In France we do lentils with smoked sausage and the carrots in there too automatically take the flavour of the smoke (as it has been braising with the lentils and sausage). When you cut the carrot in half the carrot has a fabulous flavour and is still a lovely red. There’s all these kinds of things you can do.