"One of the most iconic Greek meze dishes, taramosalata is a traditional dip made of salted and cured fish roe. The fresh eggs – from carp, hake, cod or flathead grey mullet – are generously salted and stored in barrels to cure, after which the cured roe is mixed into a paste called taramas.
There are two varieties of tarama: the off-white-beige and the pink or red one. The former is made purely of fish roe without colouring or other additives and hence is of much higher quality and better flavour. The latter contains less than 20 per cent roe, colouring, and often starchy additives and this is why its price is much lower. Pink-red tarama was invented in the 1950s in order to attract more customers with its appealing colour – the truth is that they succeeded, especially outside of Greece where often it’s the only kind you can easily find.
Tarama and botargo were popular during the Byzantine era, with Greeks from Constantinople enjoying it as a meze dish along with other delicacies and cured fish. It became a dish associated with Lent and monastery fasting as fish roe does not contain blood so is allowed during such periods. The national day of tarama in Greece is on Clean Monday (Ash Monday), the first Monday after Sunday carnival, which is the official beginning of Lent.
Taramosalata would traditionally have been prepared using a pestle and mortar but nowadays most cooks will use a blender to give it an airy, mousse-like texture. I include a touch of cuttlefish ink here, which adds a hint of flavour and turns it a beautiful silver-grey colour. The most traditional way to enjoy taramosalata is with lagana bread. I particularly love it with cucumbers, radishes and avocados. You can also use it in sandwiches."
To Make Taramosalata
How to make taramosalata
- Fill a bowl with water and dip each melba toast in for about 6–8 seconds to slightly moisten; don’t let them soak too long or they will go mushy and this will make the taramosalata less thick. Place in a fine sieve to drain.
- Spoon the fish roe and ink into a blender and pulse, in order to ‘break’ the eggs and release all the flavours. Add the onion and pulse until smooth, then add the drained melba toasts and lemon juice and blend until nice and smooth. Gradually start adding the oils while blending, to give it a velvety and smooth texture. Spoon into a container with a lid and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving.
- Serve it as a dip. It can be stored in the refrigerator for 5–6 days.