This fishmonger enjoys the smell of fresh fish

She took a short pace backward, her eyebrows and hands raised. "In the fish trade!" she said. "Oh! I really don't know how you stand the smell."

That is not an unusual reaction when the question of my work is mentioned. Twentyfive years' involvement with fish has not dulled my sense of smell but has , in fact, refined it.

To me each species, each process, each method of storage has its own unique odor. Blindfolded, I would recognize the cucumber smell of smelts, the thick creamy curd of haddocks, the rich oil of herrings, and the opulence of smoked salmon.

Smells are seasonal as traditional fisheries open and new supplies arrive. In the dark dismal days of January, there comes a smell that heralds the still-distant spring: The first of the salmon have arrived.

From the most westerly rivers of Ireland, where the season opens for the rodsman on the first day of January, they come, purply- gleaming, silvery-shining, and smelling richly of that evocative mixture of sea and peaty river.

Their numbers are small, the competition to be the first restaurant to serve them fierce; therefore the price they command is high. Compared with many other fishes, salmon continues to be expensive throughout the year, but it is a strongly flavored fish and a little can be made to go a long way.

One method of doing so is to prepare a Kedgeree, a name borrowed, as so many of our English words are, from India. So was the original recipe.

While the method set out below is based on salmon, it is a vary adaptable dish. Traditionally made from smoked haddock, it is served at breakfast, but with more expensive ingredients it could become the center of a hot buffet.

If a nonsmoked white fish is used, it can be enriched by the additional of a few ounces of shredded smoked salmon or a handful of tiny peeled shrimps. Kedgeree 1 pound cooked salmon, finely flaked 1 bay leaf Juice of 1 lemon 1/4 pound long grained rice 2 hard-boiled eggs 2 ounces butter Salt Cayenne papper 2 fluid ounces light cream

Cook the salmon in a foil parcel with juice of a lemon and a bay leaf, or use the remains of a whole cooked fish. For good results, never use quick-cooking rice.

Pour the rice slowly into rapidly boiling well-salted water and stir gently with wooden spoon to ensure that the grains separate. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

Cooking is complete when biting into a grain produces no floury taste. Wash thoroughly in a sieve under running hot water. Set aside to dry.

Separate and crumble eggs yolks. Chop egg whites quite small.

Melt butter over a low heat. Add rice, fish, egg whites, and a generous dusting of cayenne. Check need for more salt.

Increase heat, stirring to ensure an even mix. Immediately before serving, remove from heat and stir in cream.

Turn out into a warm serving dish. Fork into a pyramid shape and decorate the top with the egg yolk.

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