Nicky's Plaice Smoked Salmon

Smoked SalmonSmoked salmon is a popular speciality food all around Ireland, and it is surprising how much its character can vary, in colour, texture and flavour. There tends to be a noticeable difference in texture between the muscular wild salmon (or farmed fish that have been raised in strong tidal waters offshore, eg Clare Island salmon) and salmon from inshore fisheries where the fish have less exercise, resulting in softer flesh.

And, generally speaking, very orange flesh is likely to the result of additives to the feed of farmed salmon, making paler fish more desirable. But the smoking process also has to be taken into account and that varies a great deal from one smoker to another – each has their ‘secret recipe’, which makes the product unique.

An interesting example is the highly-regarded smoked salmon prepared by Nicky’s Plaice (+353 (0)1 832 3557) on the West Pier in Howth, Co Dublin; established in 1959, it is the oldest shop on the pier – and here the traditional process ensures the salmon is a rich orange/brown colour.

Nicky McLoughlinPeople travel from far and wide to purchase Nicky’s smoked salmon, and the area’s leading seafood restaurant, The King Sitric, is proud to name Nicky’s Plaice as sole suppliers – as they have done for many years. Proprietor/chef Aidan MacManus goes misty-eyed when talking about this product, which is made in one of the few remaining traditional smokeries, to a secret recipe devised by Nicky McLoughlin, the recent recipient of an Irish Food Writers’ Guild Lifetime Achievement Award. Nicky is now semi-retired and his son Martin runs the business, but he is careful to maintain the traditions that make their salmon special.

They say that time is really the secret ingredient, as Nicky’s Plaice use “an age-old process established some 200 years ago, and traditional methods, to ensure that the distinctive consistency and the taste that people have come to savour in our smoked salmon remains constant.”

The salmon is smoked over oak wood shavings ‘for hours’; this is now done in a kiln specially designed by Martin McLoughlin, that ensures an unchanged process while incorporating the requirements of modern hygiene codes and regulations.

The fish is skinned, trimmed, sliced and pin boned so it is ready to use, without waste; it is sold with a 21 day best-before date but, as it is fresh, it can be frozen if required. Incidentally, Nicky’s Plaice is one of the few fishmongers offering natural un-dyed smoked cod, haddock and herring - and probably the only one offering fish cookery classes.

Smoked Salmon on Potato Cakes with Soured CreamSmoked Salmon on Potato Cakes with Soured Cream

It’s hard to beat the classic way of serving smoked salmon – with good brown soda bread, a grinding of black pepper and a squeeze of lemon – but, when a change is called for, this makes a very good, easy to prepare starter. The potato cakes can be made ahead and reheated - and they could also be frozen until needed, if required, then defrost and reheat as below.

Serves 6

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