by Ed Halmagyi


For a chef it’s never a good day when the fire brigade turns up. You hear the sirens coming down the street but never consider that they’re headed to you. Instead you assume they’re off to rescue a cat in a tree or to some other such adventure.

So imagine my surprise when I turn around from the stoves and face four burly blokes in full breathing apparatus demanding at full volume to know where the emergency is. I respond in the only way appropriate, “What the bloody hell are you talking about?”.

Learning experience number 1: hot-smoked food is delicious and can be easily prepared on the stovetop of any kitchen, commercial or domestic.

Learning experience number 2: hot-smoking produces enough particle matter to trigger the finely-calibrated back-to-base smoke detectors used in heritage buildings.

Learning experience number 3: Firies may get understandably annoyed by a false alarm, but their annoyance is easily assuaged with the prospect of a complimentary feed!

You may not have tried hot-smoked meats before, but there is a great tradition of it throughout the world. Unlike cold-smoking (usually reserved for salmon and other fish) which simply preserves through curing, the hot-smoking process cooks the protein at the same time, resulting in a smokier and firmer texture.

The idea is pretty simple. Place your meat of fish on a rack set above a smoking mix, then wrap the whole parcel with foil and set this over a moderate heat. The smoking mix has three parts: rice to retain heat, sugar to encourage smoke, and tea or wood chips to produce flavour and smoke. Lamb is particularly well-suited to smoking and the result is remarkably tender and delicate.

My only advice: cook it on the barbecue outside. Otherwise, put the kettle on because firies love a nice cup of tea!
Tea smoked lamb with fennel, tomato and green olive salad