So, Big Red died. The children and I found him floating on the surface of the pond, next to the waterfall, his body fresh with death. It appears the folly was fatal – the pond was leaking and the poor guy suffocated in a glorified puddle.
The Husband dug a hole and we buried him in some pseudo-Jewish-Pagan ritual – what else would Jews in the West Country do? – gently explaining to the children that Big Red had gone to sleep. For ever. Of course before we enshrined him we thought about eating him, but after a quick whiff of his shimmering copper-coloured corpse we decided his demise was too far from our discovery and therefore The Mother-in-Law’s Kitchen. Alas, he would have made great gefilte fish. Oh, did I forget to mention that Big Red was a fish? Sorry about that.
So, in the absence of a free fish supper, I took the kids to the market and bought some fresh smoked cod’s roe. Having been introduced to the delicacy at a young age by my Jewish mother (cod’s roe is the stuff of every Jewish mother’s deli dreams), this is my absolute favourite fishy snack. When spread on rye toast these microscopic fish eggs burst into a robust, metallic, salty sea shanty on the tongue. And – what fun! – they come in their own special bag, a little leathery pouch that could innocently be mistaken for a large, mystical beast’s tongue.
At home, I decided to swerve from the imminent hoovering up of the whole piece of roe and instead went on to make an interpretative version of taramasalata, which is rather good. The addition of finely grated raw beetroot, cool yoghurt and lots of fresh dill add earthiness, creaminess and lemony-fragrance to the dish.
1 slice of white bread, crusts removed
200g fresh sustainably-caught (ideally), smoked cod’s roe, eggs removed and skin discarded
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 small beetroot, peeled and grated very finely
60ml extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon (or to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper (don’t add salt, the cod’s roe does enough!)
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped finely
60ml plain yoghurt (or to taste)
Wet your slice of bread under running water and then squeeze dry. Add it to a bowl with the cod’s roe, the garlic and the beetroot, and beat together well with a wooden spoon or whisk.
Add the olive oil, little by little, beating all the time. (You do this to create a creamy emulsion rather than a curdled mess.) Stir in the lemon juice and black pepper, followed by the dill and yoghurt, to taste.
Serve with toasted rye bread, warm pitta, or on blinis (as I have here) with a scattering of dill fronds.