Daniel Galmiche on home smoking

Daniel Galmiche on home smoking

by Great British Chefs 25 November 2014

Daniel Galmiche shares his thoughts on smoking and considers why the technique is being brought back into domestic kitchens.

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Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

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.

Similar to if you’re eating something rich you might need acid or sweetness, is there something with smoky foods that you often have to pair?

You can, yes, for example, if again we’re talking about lentils. When I’m cooking them, I sometimes like to add a little bit of zest of orange, especially if I serve them with duck which has been smoked with a little green tea mixed with rice, like I describe in my recipe. The orange just lifts it and gives a kind of smoky orangey flavour. You could use mandarin as well.

Have you had much experience with cold smoking?

We haven’t ourselves. We buy it because the only cold smoked we use is smoked salmon. The advantage is obviously that it doesn’t cook the produce, it just gives a lovely flavour that penetrates the produce - we’re talking about smoked salmon, smoked salt fish, that kind of thing.

Is there anything you smoke just for a very short time?

Duck breast, for example. The thing is with smoke, as soon as the smoke starts to come out, you need to time it. The same when doing oxtail - the beef takes the flavour very quickly and it can be extremely powerful so we need to be careful, timing it as closely as to a few seconds.

Is there anything people should look out for when smoking foods in a flat or small space?

Your smoke alarm, first of all! That is very crucial! As soon as you start smoking, you put a lid on and turn a timer on, and that’s it. And after that, you just leave it on the side, on your window-sill for example to cool it down.

If I’m home on a Monday/Tuesday night and I want something simple but something smoky, obviously going for the tea-smoking would probably be best…

Salmon would work well, duck would work well, monkfish would work well, a piece of pork would work well as well, because, if you make the link with Asian food, you know that in Asia they use tea for smoking.

I suppose those proteins require a lot less time smoking then something bigger?

Yes, otherwise you become a professional and you have your special smoking room outside in the garden like some people do. People who live in the countryside and are keen cooks might try that.

I think we’ve seen over the last 12-24 months that smoking has become a lot more popular than it was maybe 5 or 10 years ago, would you agree with that?

Yes, I think people enjoy that now. I think, overall, especially when it comes to pork, people already enjoy smoked bacon and smoked shoulder. And when it’s not done too strong - and of course the thing is always to be careful with the timing because when it’s too strong it’s not nice.