Recipes: Soused mackerel | Fennel and chicory salad

Soused mackerel by Carina Contini. Picture: Contributed

Soused mackerel by Carina Contini. Picture: Contributed

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FEED your shoal with tangy, soused mackerel and spicy gingerbread, says The Scottish Cafe’s Carina Contini

Life is an adventure. How and where you start has no guarantee of where you’ll finish. As far as cooking is concerned I usually know where I want to be at the end of the recipe. Nothing burnt or overcooked, no drops or spills and just enough, but not too much, seasoning.

But there are times, when either in a rush or when an ingredient isn’t available, that you need to just go with the flow. Some of my favourite meals have appeared while venturing along this path.

When you cook you need to have the confidence to take a risk here and there and just see what happens. I am genuinely surprised at how many people tell me they don’t cook. I just can’t imagine that. Equally when I say to friends I don’t go to the gym they look at me with the same sense of disbelief.

My husband Victor has been training hard for months – and no wonder. On 5 March he is undertaking the biggest adventure of his life, heading to the Arctic on a 100km expedition to help fundraise for It’s Good 2 Give (www.itsgood2give.co.uk).

The charity is headed by one of our most loyal customers, Lynne McNicoll, with the aim of raising £1 million to build a retreat for families whose lives have been affected by their children suffering from cancer. What makes Lynne even more special is that last month she was diagnosed with breast cancer and is now facing her own challenge. We will all be supporting her on her journey.

So whether your adventure is walking an ice plain, fighting for your health, or just thinking about getting into the kitchen, have the confidence to go for it. It may be your best dish yet.

SOUSED MACKEREL

This is the best month for local mackerel. The silvery skins of this very beautiful fish look just like the plans for Lynne’s special retreat and, given Victor’s chilly challenge, it’s perfect for this week’s recipe.

SERVES FOUR

4 spanking fresh mackerel fillets, pin boned

200ml white wine vinegar

200ml water

2 bay leaves, broken in half

8 black peppercorns

8 whole cardamom

top of a fennel bulb

2 onions, peeled, cut in half and sliced

8 fresh dill fonds

METHOD

1 Wash and dry the mackerel and place skin side down in a shallow ceramic dish.

2 Place the dill and fennel on top of the mackerel.

3 Place all the other ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes to reduce all the flavours.

4 Pour the hot liquid over the fish and quickly cover the whole dish with tin foil.

5 Allow to cool then remove the tin foil and cover with cling film.

6 Refrigerate for one to two days to allow all the flavours to marinate.

FENNEL AND CHICORY SALAD

Serve the mackerel and fennel salad on top of some sliced rye bread for a perfect lunchtime treat.

SERVES FOUR

1 small bulb of fennel

1 chicory, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 small pomegranate, seeds only

50g capers in salt, rinsed

25g fresh dill, leaves only

25g fresh parsley, leaves only

150g sour cream

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

juice of half a lemon

zest of a small orange

salt and freshly milled black pepper

METHOD

1 Scatter the fennel, chicory, pomegranate seeds and capers on a large platter and season well.

2 Dress with the oil, lemon juice and orange zest.

3 Drizzle the sour cream on top and decorate with the dill and parsley leaves.

SPICY GINGERBREAD

Homemade gingerbread with butter is one of Victor’s favourites. He’s been carb free to get fit but this will be the perfect treat for him when he’s packing his suitcase. It lasts for ages so he can have a slice before he goes and it will still be good for when he comes back – if there’s any left that is.

Makes one loaf

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

125ml full fat milk

100g unsalted butter, at room temperature

100g soft brown sugar

125g treacle

125g golden syrup

225g plain flour

2 large free-range eggs

2 heaped tsp ground ginger

2 inches of fresh ginger, skin removed and finely grated

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

50g sultanas

icing to dust

METHOD

1 In a jug, add the bicarbonate of soda to the milk, then set aside.

2 Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

3 Add the treacle, syrup, fresh ginger and a tablespoon of flour to bind and beat.

4 Add the eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of flour to bind.

5 Add the remaining flour and spices.

6 Fold in the sultanas and, finally, beat the milk and bicarbonate of soda into the mixture.

7 Pour this into a 1 kilo loaf tin lined with greaseproof paper and bake at 160C/Gas Mark 3 for about 1 hour until cooked. Dust with icing sugar.

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