Once you start making taramasalata, you can’t go back. It is so delicious, so fast and easy to make and much more economical to make at home. It takes minutes and provides so much pleasure.
Most taramasalatas are lightened with bread, but on my current gluten-free diet I have been playing around and adding lots of different things to my tarama. Don’t be horrified, these are just as delicious and sufficiently different to be very interesting. I still love the original of course, and fondly remembered trips to Greece are my inspiration. If only I had the sea lapping nearby as an accompaniment!
Tarama means salted and cured cod roe, that being the egg sack of the fish. It is luscious and rich and is used to great effect in many food cultures, notably Japanese cuisine. In Japan cod and pollock roe are cured with chilli and called mentaiko. The colour is bright red and it is the perfect partner to many things. I love mentaiko in Japanese fusion dishes like Mentaiko Mac and Cheese. My friend Luiz Hara has a bright new cookbook The Japanese Larder, that will educate you all about that and I have shared a lovely mentaiko recipe from his first book before also: Mentaiko Spaghetti with Clams and Parmesan.
Using smoked cod roe to make taramasalata
Here fresh cod roe is unusual and it is more common to find it smoked. How heavily it is smoked will depend on your fishmonger. I have discovered that one local to me has two different types of smoked cod roe, one more densely smoked than the other. The cod roe in my local farmers market is brighter and fresher still. I love the taste of smoked foods so it doesn’t bother me, but if you prefer your taramasalata less smoky, soak it for an hour or two first.
Your blender or food processor is your best friend here. As I always say when I use beans of any type, if you can cook up a batch, do! It is cheaper, they taste better and it takes about 40 minutes (depending on the bean). They freeze really well and are ready to use whenever you need them.
Chickpeas make the perfect partner to cod roe in this dip
Chickpeas make excellent dip already. This we know, hummus is a favourite for almost everyone. I use chickpeas here to lighten the cod roe, accompanied by some smoky paprika, cumin and garlic with lots of lemon. The chickpea brings LOTS to the party here. Namely, body and flavour that supports and doesn’t overwhelm the roe. Lemon further brightens everything. I add some extra chickpeas on top to finish for texture, with a little herb and chilli flourish to finish. The result is a fresh bright dip or a shared starter. It would be a perfect nibble to accompany drinks.
- 1 plump clove garlic, peeled
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika (Hungarian or Spanish are best)
- 1 tsp chilli - optional, if you are using hot paprika you may wish to omit
- 250g cooked chickpeas or 1 x 400g / 12oz tin chickpeas, drained
- 150g cod roe, skin removed and discarded (usually available smoked, you could also use mentaiko)
- 100ml extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin rapeseed oil (rapeseed oil is more flavour neutral and there are excellent rapeseed oils available now)
- the juice of 2 lemons
- salt to taste
- to serve: 3 tbsp chickpeas, chilli flakes (I used Turkish pul biber), herbs (I used basil but coriander, flat leaf parsley or tarragon would complement the flavours well), a drizzle of oil