What is taramasalata?
You may have seen this pink dip in the supermarket or as part of a Greek meze platter, but what is taramasalata? Essentially it is a paste of salted fish roe mixed with oil, lemon juice, and some kind of starchy base such as milk-soaked bread. That might not sound like such an appetising combination, but the smoky saltiness of taramasalata is absolutely moreish, especially if swept into your mouth via a piece of chewy flatbread.Jump to Recipe
My childhood favourite
I don’t remember being an especially adventurous eater as a child, and growing up in 1980s Britain meant I wasn’t exposed to especially exotic food, but somehow I encountered taramasalata and it became a firm favourite of mine and my mum’s. I definitely ate it at a restaurant called The Ortegal in North London, which my mum and her partner took my brother and I to after work at their newsagents on Sunday evenings. It came on a plate with cucumber around the edge, sprinkled with paprika, with sliced baguette, and mum and I would scoff the taramasalata greedily, along with calamari (that does make me sound both adventurous and exposed to exotic food, but I think the rest of my diet was mini chicken kievs and Findus crispy pancakes!).
I have yet to taste a supermarket taramasalata which is in any way comparable with home or restaurant made taramasalata, and believe me I have tried most of them. Even where I live in north London, surrounded by Greek and Turkish supermarkets, I haven’t found the real deal. But needs must, and I would regularly buy a pot of taramasalata and a packet of pita bread and dig in. I also enjoyed taramasalata on matzo crackers, and on crudités, but it never occurred to me to make my own taramasalata until lockdown.
I have mentioned before how my friend Paula gave me some of her sourdough starter, Fred, during lockdown (which Ioan named “The Leader”) and she and I (along with another friend Lara, who adopted some of The Leader, making “Pansy”) set up a WhatsApp group on which we shared our sourdough adventures. On the group, Paula recommended the River Cottage handbook on bread for the best sourdough recipe, and in the book, a recipe for taramasalata caught my eye. And lucky for me, the fishmonger I started using in lockdown could get me smoked fish roe, so I was in business.
A simple recipe for taramasalata
Smoked cods roe is a weird looking thing – like a pouch of pink pate.
All you need to do is scrape the pink putty out of the skin, and blitz in a food processor with some bread which has been soaked in milk, a bit of garlic, lemon juice and oil.
As the recipe is so unbelievably simple (and quick) that you might as well make your own quick flatbreads too, and this simple no-knead recipe is perfect. Then all you need to do is scoop up the taramasalata into your greedy mouth (or if you are Ioan, just eat the bread on its own!).
- Food processor
- 250 G smoked cods roe Or any other smoked fish roe such as pollock
- 100 G crust-less white bread slightly stale bread works here
- 150 Ml milk
- 1 Tsp lazy garlic
- 100 Ml extra virgin olive oil
- 200 Ml sunflower oil
- 1 lemon, juice only
- 1 Tsp smoked paprika to serve
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cut the fish roe in half and peel away the skin - you only want the soft insides of the roe. Place in a food processor, along with the spoon of lazy garlic.
- Tear the bread into pieces and soak in the milk for a couple of minutes, then gently squeeze out the excess moisture and add to the food processor.
- Blitz this mixture slowly, and add the oils in a steady stream through the funnel.
- Add the lemon juice according to taste - you need enough to cut through the richness of the salty fish. You can also season with salt and pepper, but go gently with the salt as the fish roe is generally already salty.
- Spread onto a plate and sprinkle with paprika, and serve with plenty of fresh bread.