To me, anything salty and fishy on bread signals a great prelude to a meal. Dips and cured little fish, olive oil, salt and lemon juice all get my mouth primed, even when just writing about them. The combination of salty and fishy things with the must-have snack item at any gathering – a dip – is a triple threat.
This snack is yet another brilliant variation on what is essentially our modern recipe foundation: flour, eggs and oil. To use the protein from the smaller fish eggs that are preserved in salt to emulsify old bread and olive oil and then spike it with garlic and lemon juice follows the foodie’s holy trinity of salt, fat and acid with nuance and elegance. To then take this dip and serve it with fresh versions of what it is made of is the true masterstroke.
Commercial taramasalata comes in a shade of pastel pink that is more about food dye than natural ingredients. The dye is used to replicate the reddish fish eggs that are known to taste less “fishy” than the yellow or white kind from mullet or herring. It’s a nice little conversation starter at a dinner party to make your own taramasalata from local fish roe, as I guarantee you will be questioned as to why your dip isn’t a vibrant shade of pink. Finding local salted fish roe has become easier in the past five or so years and there are even some great canned versions that are worth sourcing, such as Australian Caviar Tarama (mullet fish roe) from Steve Costi’s Seafood.
With taramasalata it is possible to replace the bread with potato or almond to help with emulsification, or to omit the bread altogether and simply serve the dip as a form of mayonnaise. Use a light olive oil, as a strong oil will make the flavour overwhelming or potentially a little bitter. This recipe is also very easy to adjust for “fishiness” depending on your guests’ tastes. I have served this many times and had most of it demolished before the question comes up of what it contains. Even those who aren’t normally lovers of cured fish eggs end up seduced by the fresh and tangy flavour.
Time: 20 minutes preparation
Serves 6 as a snack
- 150g stale bread
- 120ml water
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 spring onions (white section)
- 80g salted fish roe (cod, carp or mullet)
- 250ml light olive oil
- 1 lemon juice and zest
- ¼ tsp white pepper
- 300g flatbread or Turkish bread
- 50g fresh salmon roe
- Soak the bread in the water for 10 minutes – a blender jug is ideal for this, as it will hold all of the ingredients.
- Crush the garlic, chop the onion then add the rest of the ingredients, except for the white pepper, and blend on a medium speed until pale and emulsified.
- Adjust the mixture with more olive oil or more water, depending on how thick you want the taramasalata to be, then finish with the white pepper and adjust with more salt if required. I often find it needs a little extra sprinkle.
- Serve with toasted flatbread or Turkish bread and fresh salmon roe or other fresh fish roe. A little extra very good olive oil is also a wonderful lift, if desired.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on November 4, 2023 as "A fine meze".
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