By Michaela Clarke
Oysters latest Spring menu has a new exciting dish in the form of Haven Smokehouse Turf-Smoked Donegal Salmon served with a Pea, Vanilla & Mint Puree, Confit Potato and Crispy Capers!
Hailing from Derry, Declan McConnelllogue has set up The Haven Smokehouse alongside his partner Sue Cruse from Sri Lanka, in the picturesque Co. Donegal village of Carrigart.
Derry is a thread linking Oysters and The Haven Smokehouse, both owners originating from the Maiden City and now collaborating to bring organic turf-smoked salmon, via the most traditional of smoking methods to the palates of Northern Irish diners, a fine example showcasing the best of our local produce with two Derry natives at the heart of the process.
Declan and Sue pride themselves on keeping their smokehouse as authentic and traditional as possible and with Oysters’ love affair of local produce and Northern Irish heritage, this makes for the perfect pairing, the end product being a fabulous melody of true Irish flavours stimulating the tastebuds.
An explosion of flavours and smoked nuances immediately transport the diner to the Irish countryside of old and the heritage of years gone-by, of farmers cutting turf and the smell of turf-filled fires permeating homes across the land.
The beautiful, fresh, organic salmon is carefully hand selected from a bio-suisse approved organic farm in Fanad Head, and Declan explains how; “within hours of swimming in the wild Atlantic waters, it is on the filleting table.”
The journey of the salmon fillet begins a short distance from the smokehouse, only a stone throw from the pristine waters edge.
After the salmon is caught and brought to the smokehouse, Declan, the Master Smoker, carefully threads a needle under the collar of each side of salmon with twine and then hangs same from hooks, allowing the oil that comes to the surface, to drip off the tail, in sparkling droplets. The delicacy is then left to dry in the fresh Atlantic breeze.
The next step sees the introduction of turf to the process – “It’s time to light the turf fire, gentle smoke envelopes our salmon sides for two to three days as it slowly starts to cure,” explains Declan.
Declan, proprietor of The Haven Smokehouse, details the unique smoking effect used, “Contrary to popular understanding, at The Haven Smokehouse we do not use salt to cure our salmon – we use smoke! Salt is used to create a pellicle on the flesh to let smoke stick to it. Given time, smoke will slowly displace the moisture in the salmon, therefore curing and creating a low salt product – call us rebels!”
The turf is local to the Smokehouse as well, with some of the peat bogs, generated over thousands of years, located in the surrounding hills.
The entire process takes place in the most traditional of smokehouses, designed and established by Declan and Sue, shunning the modern commercialised smoking processes in favour of an authentic dry-stone walled cottage smoking methods, thereby keeping Irish heritage truly alive in the form of turf-smoked salmon, every single element coming from the surrounding landscape and carried out through Irish traditions passed down through generations. “After many late nights and many mistakes, I realised it was a taste of my memories, of a time when simplicity was understanding and knowledge was watching the salmon, with the old soul,” Declan – The Haven Smoke House.
A man, with an absolute passion for heritage and the simplicity of process, Declan is on the threshold of perfecting his recipe for sour dough bread which he hopes to make in his own clay oven currently in process of being fashioned by his own hands. Keep an eye out for another wonderful, exciting product being exported across the region of Ireland / Northern Ireland and Europe.
If this has tantalised your tastebuds and you yearn to savour veritable organic turf-smoked salmon at its optimum, visit Oysters and be enthralled by the delicacies of this superb product, steeped in the heritage of these two Derry natives.