MACKEREL are a wonderful source of nutrition, combined with delicious eating in a variety of ways.
Fresh – and mackerel must be absolutely fresh – nothing is better as a cooking method than to char-grill the fish. They are succulent, due to their valuable omega 3 fat content, which is what makes them so good for us. Due to their delicious richness, mackerel is complemented by astringent flavours – notably lemon and lime, and fruits such as gooseberry and rhubarb. Horseradish, mustard and medium-strength curry powder also enhance the flavour of both fresh and smoked mackerel. It is as delicious fresh as it is smoked.
Whether you choose the plain smoked fish, or that encrusted with crushed black pepper is up to you. I love both. And I have found that smoked mackerel pâté is loved by children every bit as much as by adults.
When eating the fish whole, though, for children it is essential to carefully fillet the cooked fish from its bones. That way, children will love to eat mackerel fresh as well as when smoked and made into pâté.
Smoked mackerel with beetroot jellies
This makes a most delicious first course, or a main course served with a mixed leaf salad and new potatoes.
4 fresh beetroot, each about tennis ball in size
1 pint/570ml stock – I use Marigold stock powder made up with boiling water
6 leaves of gelatine, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt, a dash of Tabasco – if you really dislike chilli, even in a tiny amount, just leave this out
4 fillets of smoked mackerel,
½ pint/285ml crème fraiche – I use the half-fat crème fraiche
2 teaspoons horseradish – either that made by Moniack, or Colman’s
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Peel each beetroot – don’t worry about your hands, the stain washes off in one washing. Slice each beetroot into five even slices. Then slice these, stacked up, into five layers of finger thick strips. Then slice again to give even sized dice about middle fingernail sized.
Put the diced beetroot into a saucepan with the stock, cover with a lid and simmer gently until the diced beetroot is tender when stuck with a fork. Lift the soaked gelatine from its cold water, dripping off excess water, and drop the leaves into the saucepan containing the stock and diced beetroot. Swirl the pan – the gelatine will dissolve almost instantly. Stir in the lemon juice and salt, and the Tabasco if you are using it. Cool the contents of the saucepan, and, when cold, divide evenly between six moulds. From time to time, stir the contents of each mould so that the diced beetroot is evenly distributed as the jellies set. When set, cover each mould with clingfilm and store in the fridge – they can be made a day in advance.
For the smoked mackerel mixture, carefully flake the smoked mackerel from its skin, removing all bones. Put the flaked smoked mackerel into a bowl and mix well with the crème fraiche and horseradish and the finely chopped parsley.
To assemble, dip each mould in a bowl of very hot water, then shake out each beetroot jelly onto a plate, and put a small spoonful of the smoked mackerel mixture at the side of the jelly.
Smoked mackerel and bulgur wheat salad with lemon, chive and curry dressing
Godfrey and I both feel the same about bulgur wheat – we so much prefer it to couscous. Bulgur is just as easy to prepare, but its flavour and texture are just much more interesting. And it combines so well with flaked smoked mackerel. The citrusy dressing, spiked with curry – but only slightly – cuts the richness of the fish and makes a very good salad for lunch or supper during the summer months.
6 fillets of smoked mackerel
8oz/225g bulgur wheat
2 pints/1.15 litres stock – you can use a good stock substitute if you like, such as Marigold stock powder
pared rind of ½ lemon
1 teaspoon salt
For the dressing
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons runny honey
1 rounded teaspoon medium strength curry powder
½ teaspoon salt, about 10 grinds of black pepper
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons mixed finely chopped chives and parsley
Start by cooking the bulgur wheat. Measure it into a saucepan and add the stock, pared lemon rind and teaspoon of salt. Over heat, bring the stock to the boil, cover the pan with its lid and cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Fork through the bulgur wheat, which should have absorbed all the stock. Cool.
Carefully flake the smoked mackerel, discarding any bones and skin.
Mix the flaked fish into the cooled bulgur wheat.
Make the dressing by mixing together the finely grated lemon rind with the runny honey and curry powder, gradually adding the olive oil, a spoonful at a time. Stir in the salt and black pepper, the lemon juice and finely chopped chives and parsley, and then mix the dressing thoroughly through the bulgur wheat and smoked mackerel. Pile onto a serving plate and serve with a tomato salad and a mixed leaf salad to accompany it.
Citrus baked mackerel with orange and fennel salad
3 spring onions
2 fennel bulbs
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, about 10 grinds of black pepper
Lay a sheet of baking parchment onto a baking tray, and lay the cleaned mackerel on this.
Wash each lemon and orange well under running water, dry with kitchen paper, and slice each of the 2 lemons and 2 oranges as thinly as possible. Slice the spring onions into chunks. Lay the sliced fruit and the sliced spring onions over the mackerel. Cover with a second sheet of baking parchment, tucking the paper ends under the paper on which the mackerel lie. Bake in a moderate heat, 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 35-40 minutes.
Meanwhile, with a sharp serrated knife, slice the peel and white pith from each of the remaining oranges, then slice in towards the centre to obtain pithless segments. Put these into a serving bowl.
Trim the fennel bulbs of fronds and cut off the base. Slice as finely as possible – if you have a really good potato peeler use this to get almost transparent slices of fennel. Add them to the segmented oranges in the serving bowl, season with salt and black pepper and mix the seasonings and the olive oil thoroughly through the oranges and fennel slices.
To serve, lift the top sheet of baking parchment from the mackerel, and lift off and discard the sliced citrus fruit and spring onions. Serve one fish with a spoonful of orange and fennel salad at the side, on each of six warmed plates. The contrasting crunch between the fennel and the soft citrus-flavoured cooked mackerel is delicious.
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