Tom Kitchin: cooking with Mackerel
For me, mackerel brings back great memories of being a youngster, out fishing with my father. I’ll never forget the joy of catching my first fish and taking it home to cook, feeling very proud of myself. Now our elder two boys are at an age when we can take them out fishing, I’m enjoying the chance to pass on that joyful feeling.
For children, going out fishing is such a fantastic experience. They get to see produce in its natural environment and begin to understand where their food comes from. That’s really important for me as they are the ones who can change the way we all think about and approach food. There’s no better way to learn about produce, and indeed there’s no better way to get kids excited about food.
Even if a fishing trip isn’t possible, you can visit your local fishmonger to source the freshest mackerel – and seeing all the wonderful fresh fish and shellfish can also be exciting for children and start to get them interested in what they’re eating.
When you’re buying mackerel, seek out some that is really fresh – a firm, shiny body and bright eyes are good indicators. Like many other oily fish, it can spoil quite quickly.
Right now, I’m enjoying preparing a lovely mackerel salad with crunchy pink radish. It’s a simple dish but looks so fresh, light and attractive on the plate. It’s a great way to showcase mackerel but you need to make sure the fish is fresh, and your vegetables should be too.
If it’s something more warming you’re after as we approach autumn, mackerel can be perfectly matched with glorious, vibrant beetroot and lovely seasonal leeks. The earthy flavours work well together and the meatiness of mackerel stands up to the sweet tenderness of beetroot.
Whether you’re catching your own or buying fresh from your local fishmonger, mackerel can make the perfect supper to keep both children and adults happy and healthy.
Mackerel and radish salad
4 mackerel fillets
virgin olive oil
Clean the radishes in ice water and slice thinly using a mandolin. Check the mackerel fillets for pin bones, removing any you find with kitchen tweezers. Heat the virgin olive oil in a wide, heavy-based pan. When hot, place the mackerel fillets skin side down in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then turn the fillets and cook for a further minute. Chop the mackerel into small, neat dice.
To serve, spoon the mackerel into round moulds on the plate. Neatly place the chopped radish on top, drizzle with virgin olive oil and sprinkle with your choice of herbs.
Mackerel with leek terrine and beetroot purée
4 mackerel fillets
virgin olive oil
1 handful of sugar
1 handful of salt
4 cooked beetroots
25ml sherry vinegar
For the leeks
Trim the leeks and wash them well to remove any excess dirt and sand. Tie them together in a bunch. Bring two litres of water to the boil in a large saucepan and add the sugar and salt. Add the leeks and cook until they are very soft, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Once the leeks are cooked you need to work fast before they cool.
Drain them as well as possible, then lay them out in a row on a piece of clingfilm to make a tight log shape. Tie at both ends and pierce the log a few times to let out any excess liquid. Leave to set in the fridge for at least six hours before serving.
For the beetroot purée
In a blender, blitz the beetroots for two minutes until completely puréed. Add the vinegar and salt to taste. Place in a very fine sieve or muslin cloth and leave to drip for two to three hours until you are left with only the purée. Keep it refrigerated until ready to serve.
For the mackerel
Check the mackerel fillets for pin bones, removing any you find with kitchen tweezers. Heat the virgin olive oil in a heavy-based wide pan. When hot, place the mackerel fillets skin side down in the pan and cook for two to three minutes. Then turn the fillets and cook for a further minute. To serve, fill the plate with beetroot purée and place the leek terrine and mackerel side by side. Place a quenelle of crème fraîche on top of each terrine.