LAST GASP FOR OLD SMOKIES? Hake takes on haddock in new Battle of Arbroath.
A NEW Battle of Arbroath is being fought over the proud smokie.
Traditionalists are gutted that cheap-as-chips hake is being used instead of haddock.
They say the Arbroath Smokie is protected by Champagne-style Euro laws to stop inferior products muscling in.
But former fisherman Matthew Smith, who was first to use hake, says his customers prefer it.
Mr Smith, of Arbroath firm M&M Smith, says the fish is meatier, has fewer bones and smokes perfectly.
He stumbled across it when the price of haddock rose to pounds 1.60 per kilo at the market compared with pounds 1.16 for hake.
Mr Smith said: "I started smoking hake because haddock has become so expensive.
"I saw hake at the fish market in Peterhead back in June and thought I'd try it.
"I took a box home and smoked it. I gave it all away to friends, family and customers and the response was unbelievable.
"Everyone thought it was great and said that they'd never tasted anything like it.
"Hake has several benefits over traditional Arbroath Smokies.
"It's not a real fishy taste, it's milder and absolutely delicious.
"It has only one large bone that runs right through it and it gives chunkier lumps of meat.
"Hake is also a lot easier to pick down if you want to make a pate.
"Some people say hake is better and more and more ask for it.
"But a lot of the traditionalists won't go away from smokies. They will never change."
Mr Smith says the value for money offered by hake is passed on to his customers.
His shop sells traditional haddock smokies for pounds 6.60 per kilo while the hake smokies are pounds 5.50.
Top Scottish chef Craig Somers, of Stonehaven's Carron Restaurant, which was named as Scotland's best seafood restaurant in 2006, said: "Hake smokies sound like a great idea.
"Anything new is worth a try and if it gets good feedback then just run with it.
"We've been doing smoked mackerel here and it's gone down a storm.
"I think people are generally pretty open about trying new things."
But smokie connoisseur Sandy Knox, 69, said: "A real Arbroath Smokie is haddock and I don't think you will ever beat it.
"To use anything but haddock for a smokie is sacrilegious."
Smokies, which were first made in the 19th century, are the most famous thing to come out of Arbroath - with the exception of the declaration of Scottish independence.
In 2004 the Arbroath Smokie was given official protection by the EU.
Most of Britain's hake comes from the Irish Sea and off the south-west of England.
SUNDAY MAIL READERS TAKE THE TASTE TEST
Ron Barber, 73, of Auchmithie, said: "It's not as strong as Arbroath Smokies, which I absolutely love. I had smokies for lunch, but this hake is delicious. Very delicate."
Kieran Harrison, 16, plumber and part-time fish merchant worker, of Arbroath, said: "I love fish and the hake is good. You can't beat a real smokie but I would eat this again."
Jane Coleman, 70, of Dundee said: "It's lovely, really nice. I will certainly try it again - and I know that my husband will absolutely love it too."
Sophia Wells, 25, housewife of Arbroath, said: "It's absolutely divine. I'm going to be on the look-out for this. I've never heard of it before but I will be spreading the word, it's the way to go."
Olive Stewart, 70, of Dundee, said: "I like it - it is really very surprising and mild but lovely. I could eat that with no problems at all."
Fin dining: Matthew is causing a stir in his home town with his new hake smokies Picture: PAUL REID; Ron Barber; Kieran Harrison; Jane Coleman; Sophia Wells; Olive Stewart