EAT: The Sussex Smokie

A well regarded and traditional recipe, the Sussex Smokie can be found on many pub menus across the region. Thought to date back as far as the 1800’s it’s a simple dish with smoked haddock at its heart; held within a rich and creamy sauce; topped by a breadcrumb crust. Variations include additions of mustard, some use herbs, others include Parmesan, and leeks and onions are often subbed for one another, but the result is a comforting dish that works in all seasons as a filling main course or presented in a little dish as a starter or lunch; key perhaps to it’s lasting appeal.

There’s no reason why this classic shouldn’t get an update though, and with many of the ingredients being kitchen staples it seems canny to add it to the home dinner menu every so often. With that in mind I’d like to offer up my version; with added beer. Why beer? Sussex culinary heritage is often brought back to the likes of the Smokie and various, nay, endless pudding recipes, but brewing is also a huge part of the cultural identity of East and West Sussex, past and present. Not only that but the addition of a malty beer adds depth to the dish, enhances the characteristics of the smoked haddock and pairs beautifully with the cheddar in the sauce. It follows the well-trodden path of beer-battered fish and circles back to this being a pub staple, so with all that in mind you’ll need the following (serves 4)


350-400g Smoked Haddock

1 large leek finely sliced

Milk to poach (just enough to the cover fish and leeks- approx. 1 pint / 500ml)

150ml beer (try a malty Best Bitter)

50g butter

45g plain flour

100g grated Cheddar (I used Sussex Charmer)

1 tbsp smoked paprika

Breadcrumbs from 2 thick slices of white bread

30g Grated Parmesan

Pinch of salt


  1. Pour the milk into a wide-bottomed saucepan and season with a pinch of salt
  2. Bring the milk to a simmer over a low heat and add the leeks and haddock fillet, skin-side down, poach for 8-10 minutes
  3. Using a colander, drain the milk into a bowl and set aside for use later, the fish and leeks can remain in the colander for the time being
  4. Gently heat the butter in a casserole or oven-proof pan over a medium-low heat, as soon as the butter is melted remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the flour to create a roux, this will need to be smooth without any lumps, a bit like a paste
  5. Cook the roux on a medium-low heat for 2 minutes to cook out the floury taste
  6. Start adding the beer, little by little, whisking between pours
  7. Add the poaching liquid, little by little and combine, whisking continually then add cheddar and cook down for 15 minutes (stirring occasionally to prevent skin from forming) or until mixture is smooth and just thick enough that it coats the back of a spoon
  8. Flake the fish and add to the sauce with the leeks and paprika; stir-in
  9. Transfer the mixture to ramekins if required, top with breadcrumbs and parmesan and lightly grill until golden
  10. Serve immediately with a chunk of bread, a side salad and a glass of cool beer

Alternatively, this dish can be made with unsmoked haddock, the twist being that the ‘smokie’ then becomes the beer by using a smoked brew such as Base Ejection by Gun Brewery or Bonfire Boy by Harvey’s, both excellent East Sussex breweries.

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Author of Look At Brew - a beer blog dedicated to the celebration and promotion of the modern beer scene.