There is something satisfyingly Anglo-Italian about this combination; a blending of the classic carbonara with a distant Edwardian whiff of soft-boiled eggs and kippers for breakfast. Everybody knows that smoked fish and eggs go together like strawberries and cream (think kedgeree), and here the smoky, salty-sweet pancetta of a classic carbonara is replaced by smoked mullet.
Smoked fish is a wonderful ingredient to have up your sleeve, especially during a dismal January, when the thought of leaving the house to buy anything fresh seems challenging. It is cheap, keeps for months, and only a little is needed to completely change the flavour of a dish, much like pancetta; it can be used almost as a seasoning. In these dark, damp days it seems right to reach for a slick silver salted fillet that tastes of even darker places; of the insides of Scottish (or Sardinian) sheds and smoke.
Smoked mackerel was always our smoked fish of choice growing up. About 2 suppers a week were smoked mackerel and salad, giving my mum a break from cooking and secretly satisfying for all of us (including our pet rat Lucky who ate the skins). Smoked mullet is now the local fish I have access to (the mullet fished in nearby Cabras) and it works wonderfully in this combination. Smoking is an ancient form of preservation, and as we enter the deepest winter months, it seems fitting to reach for a smoky stalwart of the barren season.
A joyfully yellow and bolstering lunch or supper.
3 egg yolks
80-100g smoked mullet (or smoked fish of your choice. Mackerel, eel, trout and salmon would all work brilliantly)
A handful of chopped parsley
1 clove of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Grated parmesan (optional)
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.
Meanwhile bash the clove of garlic, remove the skin and place it in a saute pan with a good glug of olive oil. Place the pan over a medium heat and cook the garlic until just beginning to turn golden.
Add the smoked fish, chopped into small chunks, and cook for a minute or two, adding another glug of oil if necessary and making sure the garlic doesn’t burn.
Remove from the heat whilst you cook the pasta. Once the water is boiling drop in your spaghetti and cook until al dente. Fish it directly into the saute pan and add the yolks and a slosh of the pasta cooking water. Place over a very low heat and stir until things get creamy and thicken up nicely, but don’t let the eggs cook to a scramble. It should be luscious and shining and creamy. Add a dash more oil, check for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary, and serve, with chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper.
You can add some grated parmesan if you wish (smoked fish goes very well with cheese) but I often don’t.