The Sunday Business Post by Vanessa Berman
If you thought smoked salmon was generic the length and breadth of the country, you have never tried the brand of it that hails from the Connemara Smokehouse. It puts all those slimy, greasy party snacks to shame, and tastes and feels like real fish.
The Smokehouse is a family business that began in 1979 under the direction of John and Bridget Roberts.
The husband-and-wife team gave way to their son Graham and his wife Saoirse, who have carried on their dedication to the smoking, slicing, packing and selling fish.
The company’s international reputation has steadily grown, having been recognised by the Bridgestone Best in Ireland Award, the Great Taste Awards and Rick Stein’s Food Heroes, among others.
The Roberts’ growing family also shows a marked enthusiasm for the business, a l though more on the consumer side for now.
“My oldest two children, both under five, can demolish a side of salmon in minutes,” says Graham Roberts proudly.
The company uses traditional production methods, which includes the use of a smoking plant first commissioned in 1956. It began producing organic smoked salmon in 1998, alongside its range of wild and farmed fish.
The Smokehouse also produces a range of speciality smoked salmon, including roast smoked salmon (hot smoked to produce a different texture and flavour), honey roast smoked salmon (hot smoked with a honey glaze) and gravadlax. All of these are produced with farmed, organic and wild salmon.
Smoked fish doesn’t mean just salmon, though, and some of the company’s more unusual products are also among the most popular.
Roberts’ smoked tuna (which, he says, is caught by an environmentally friendly method) , adds a third dimension to the tuna repertoire, surpassing fresh or canned by miles.
He also produces a honey roast smoked tuna, along the same lines as the salmon.
The Smokehouse also specialises in smoking mackerel, cod, trout and herrings, which it turns into kippers. But you don’t have to rely on the Roberts family for your raw materials. The company al so runs a smoking service for Connemara’s fishermen, residents and visitors: bring in your proud catch, and the Connemara Smokehouse will smoke it for you. So if you are lucky enough to hook a salmon, what better way to show it off to friends and family?
While you are delivering your prize fish, or picking up something for dinner, staff at the Smokehouse will also be happy to show you around the factory.
But you don’t have to make the trek to Connemara to try the goodies – the Smokehouse website offers a mail order service for Irish customers.
The company also ships throughout Europe and further afield by special request.
Located in an idyllic setting, metres from the sea beside a white sandy beach in Ballyconneely, the Smokehouse is a standard-bearer for all that is good in the Irish food industry.
Run by a conscientious and deeply passionate staff, the food is healthy, delicious and unmistakably Irish. Yet the slick, sophisticated product has none of the twee sentimentality of the Ireland of times gone by. One taste will restore your faith in Irish cuisine.
Mawky’s Smoked Salmon Quiche
8oz plain flour
1 extra egg yolk
8 oz (500g) Connemara Smokehouse smoked salmon
3 large eggs
12 fl oz cream (or half milk and half cream)
Juice of half a lemon
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
You will need a 10-inch (25.5 cm) flan or quiche tin – preferably metal – with a fluted edge and removable base.
Beat eggs well, and slice butter into thin slices and mix into eggs.
Add flour, gradually working it into a thick paste.
Roll out to size of flan dish and line dish, pressing pastry firmly into tin.
Cover bottom of pastry-lined flan dish with thin slices of smoked salmon (using about half the fish) and leave in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Chop the remainder of the salmon into small pieces.
Add to beaten eggs. Add cream (or milk and cream), chopped parsley and lemon juice.
Pour into pastry-lined tin and bake in a hot oven (200 deg C/Gas 6) for 25-30 minutes, until quiche is set in the centre and has turned golden brown and looks puffy.
Contact the Smokehouse at Bunowen Pier, Ballyconneely, Connemara, Co Galway. Phone 095-23739. E-mail [email protected] or visit www.smokehouse.ie