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Arbroath Smokies - World Class Food from Scotland

Updated on August 6, 2015
chef-de-jour profile image

Andrew travels extensively, contributing articles to newspapers and online sites. Recent trips : Brazil, the Amazon, the Pantanal, Bulgaria.

An Arbroath Smokie shop
An Arbroath Smokie shop | Source

Arbroath on the East Coast of Scotland

Ever heard of a smokie, an Arbroath smokie? Arbroath may not be that well known to the world but if the taste of food was a measure of the importance of a place Arbroath would be up there with the best.

A small town on the east coast of Scotland, just north of Dundee in Angus, Arbroath boasts one of the finest delicacies known - hot-smoked haddock - the smokie.

It's unique flavour has captured the imagination of today's chefs and gourmet cooks the world over. The local people have been enjoying them for well over a century! What's all the fuss about?

We paid a visit to this gem of a port recently and just couldn't resist tucking in to a few of these delicious fish. We weren't disappointed.

'A smokie is to the haddock what Parma ham is to the hind leg of a pig'.

— Tom Bryce-Gardyne

Traditional Food

Back in the days when fish had to be preserved in natural ways fisher folk in the nearby village of Auchmithie, up the coast from Arbroath, took to smoking their freshly caught haddock. Their method, still practised today, involved cooking the fish in barrels over hardwood fires.

The fish would be gutted, topped and tailed, salted, dried for a short while then hung above the embers of a wood fire, often oak or ash or other hard wood. The resultant meat would remain juicy, firm and above all, hold a tremendous rich flavour.

Today, around a dozen family firms keep the tradition going. What evolved as a means of preserving fish has turned into a world beating industry, with sales to some of the top restaurants.

Best eaten 'straight from the barrel' they can be bought from small shops in town and consumed with chips (french fries) out in the open.

I can vouch for their wonderful flavour. I've never eaten fish like it. If by some chance you manage to get to Arbroath one day DO NOT pass up the opportunity to eat one or better, two, smokies.

Eating smokies near Arbroath harbour.
Eating smokies near Arbroath harbour. | Source

Recipes

Smokies can be an integral part of several recipes, including:

  • Potatoes, petites pois, butter and lemon sauce.
  • Brown rice, fried garlic and onions in a Bearnaise sauce.
  • Risotto.
  • Omelette.
  • Black olive salad.
  • Baked parsnips, carrots, courgettes (zucchini) in a cream sauce.
  • Spaghetti or pasta in a tartar sauce with roasted lemon.

The authentic, original smokie is under threat from some producers, who, instead of using traditional methods, mass produce the fish in electric ovens. Local smokehouse owners are not well pleased by this development. It undermines their sales and gives the smokie a bad name.

That's why some Arbroath producers want to gain appellation status for their product from the EU (European Union), which would guarantee the future of the authentic smokie and place it in the same league as say, Parma ham.

This would be a huge step forward and safeguard the traditional hot smoked haddock.

Arbroath smokies cooking in the open air.
Arbroath smokies cooking in the open air. | Source
Even the gulls love smokies.
Even the gulls love smokies. | Source

Arbroath Town and the Sandstone Coastline

Arbroath is situated on the beautiful east coast of Scotland and looks out onto the North Sea. Once a busy fishing port the harbour is now a safe haven for mainly pleasure craft, although a few fishermen still glean a living offshore fishing.

The town has a long history, going back to the 11th century when the abbey was built. The ruins are there today, built from the attractive local red sandstone. If you go walking out of town along the coast you'll come across this rich red stone in the cliffs that are battered by the waves.

You can walk for miles and explore the many caves and tiny beaches that give this coastline such a special feel. Be careful though, many steep sided cliffs are not fenced off!

Many different seabirds live here. On a good day you'll spot guillemots, gannets, kittiwakes, oystercatchers and puffins. If you're really lucky there are seals and dolphins too.


Air, Road and Rail to get to Arbroath

* By air to Dundee Airport (29kms/15miles) and then hire car or bus.

* By train from Edinburgh Waverley (77miles) which takes 1h 22minutes.

* By car from Edinburgh using the M90, M94 and A 92, all major roads.

Map of Arbroath, Scotland

A markerarbroath scotland -
Arbroath, Angus, UK
get directions

© 2015 Andrew Spacey

Comments

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  • chef-de-jour profile image
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    Andrew Spacey 24 months ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    Genna, thank you for the visit, much appreciated. This little Scottish town is full of smoked fish and delicious they are too. A great way to cook food.

  • Genna East profile image

    Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

    As a lover of all things coastal, the oceans, and fish, I really enjoyed this article, Chef. My Dad used to smoke herring...and this brought back memories. Your photos are amazing...I can smell those delicious aromas from here. Thank you.

  • carter06 profile image

    Mary 2 years ago from Cronulla NSW

    Back over here for a bit and read & enjoyed your hub chef.. haven't had smoked haddock yet but love smoked trout and salmon, sounds like a must try..cheers

  • chef-de-jour profile image
    Author

    Andrew Spacey 2 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    If you ever get to Scotland do not miss out on the awesome smokie Alicia!! Thanks for the visit, much appreciated.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

    This hub made me very hungry, Andrew! The smokies sound delicious. I will definitely try some if I visit Scotland, which I hope to do one day.

  • chef-de-jour profile image
    Author

    Andrew Spacey 2 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    Thanks for the visit Ann. Arbroath is a special wee town and is rightly proud of its smokie traditions.

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

    It's a great part of Scotland and I love smoked fish! Some people (certainly some in the Midlands) call smoked fish 'butter fish' because it has a yellow colour. There's nothing like a freshly smoked fish from Scotland though. I have a cousin who used to live near Aberdeen and we had a few walks along that coastline too - wonderful.

    Great hub; made my mouth water - and it's nearly tea time!

    Ann