Avgotaraho

Avgotaraho

Dried mullet roe (boutargo)

By
From
The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook
Photographer
Alan Benson

One of my most persistent childhood memories is of my mother preparing avgotaraho. For the uninitiated, this is the salted and dried roe of the mullet, rich amber in colour and a delight to eat, though its one annoying characteristic is that it rather clings to the teeth. At least the taste lingers for longer!

First of all you need to be on good terms with your fishmonger, particularly if he has a large Greek clientele. Cultivate the friendship so that it is ripe by early autumn or fall, wherever you happen to live. This is when the mullet is about to spawn, and some of the catch will yield trembling pairs of yellow roe. A good fishmonger knows how to gut the fish so as not to cut into the roe. However, my father preferred to do this himself at the fishmongers.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
fresh mullet roe, in pairs
good-quality pure cooking salt
beeswax or paraffin wax, optional

Method

  1. Remove any red veins on each roe by carefully scraping with the back edge of a spoon. The spoon edge should not be sharp, as this could break the fine skin. Leave the roe in pairs.
  2. Cover a flat dish with a layer of salt. Arrange the fish roe side by side on the salt, sprinkle thickly with more salt and place another layer of roe on top if you have a good supply. Top with more salt, adding enough to completely cover the roe. Leave for 6 hours at room temperature.
  3. Have a large bowl of cold water ready. Dip each pair of roe into the water, lift out immediately and place flat on a rack. Smooth the roe with your fingers and leave to drain for 10 minutes.
  4. Place the drained roe flat on a clean wooden board, then carefully place another board on top. If the top board is not very heavy, weigh it down with a heavy object. Leave for another 30 minutes.
  5. Transfer the roe to a stainless steel or plastic-coated rack. Dry in an airy, shaded place for 1 week, turning the roe once each day. Cover them lightly with muslin (cheesecloth) to protect them. After drying, the roe will be firm and an amber shade, varying in depth according to the original colour.
  6. Store the roe in a cool place, but not in a sealed container. The longer they are stored, the firmer they become; they will keep for up to 6 months.
  7. To store them longer, dip the roe in melted beeswax or paraffin wax, place them on flat trays and leave them until set. This protects the roe more, but the roe will not dry out as much as the uncoated roe. Connoisseurs prefer very firm roe.
  8. To eat, remove any wax coating and the fine skin, and slice the roe thinly. It is excellent as an appetiser with crusty bread and butter, or drizzle it with olive oil and add a squeeze of lemon juice and a grinding of black pepper.
  9. The dried roe may also be used to make taramosalata. Grate the amount required, mix well with a little lemon juice and leave until it softens. Then follow the recipe directions for taramosalata.
Tags:
The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook
Tess
Mallos
Middle Eastern
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