Mackerel is one of the most underrated fish around, and a favourite in the Kentishtowner Kitchen. Yes, it’s rich in protein and fatty acid omega-3, which can help to protect the heart, as well as being an excellent source of vitamin D. But it also has all sorts of brainy benefits, from alleviating depression to sharpening those little grey cells. And best of all, it’s delicious.
Most regularly, and rather lazily, we buy it smoked (always let it breathe at room temperature for an hour or two) and serve with orange, spinach, toasted pinenuts, avocado and a soft boiled egg. Or, for a super-quick midweek lunch, just pulped into a rough pate with a dash of lemon juice on toast.
But buying fresh mackerel is always a surprise. When cooked it’s lighter and less meaty than you’d expect. It can withstand proper cooking too: try it whole, smear the skin with cumin or garam masala spices (mashed up in olive oil) and pan-fry for 20 mins until the skin is blackened. Serve with rice and orange salad.
This lovely recipe is inspired partly by an excellent dish at much-praised new opening Dabbous (where it came with gooseberries), and partly by a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi (whose version is a little more complicated). You could, like we did here, support your local fishmonger and buy both mackerel and samphire from Harry’s.
Serves two as a light lunch
2 cooked beetroot
1/2 red onion
Handful black olives
1 tsp cumin
1/2 lemon juice
1 courgette (optional)
2 mackerel fillets, skin on
First, make the salsa by dicing the cooked beetroot (if raw, boil it for 20 mins then leave to cool), and yes, you can always use the vacuum-packed ones if you’re feeling lazy. Mixing with cumin and the herbs, olives, chilli and capers. Let it stand for at least 10 mins.
Samphire is a fiddly bugger so prepare it now, carefully removing any tough stalks, discoloured bits, and rinsing thoroughly for grit or sand. You may lose a quarter of its weight. Boil some salted water, and plunge samphire for 4 mins max.
Whilst the samphire is cooking fry the mackerel for 3 mins skin side down, and then flip over for another minute or two, depending on the thickness of the fillets.
Drench the samphire in butter and serve the lot in an attractive heap, with the courgettes at the bottom. Spoon salsa over the skin. It would work with a nice light red, like a Gamay.
Words & Pics: Stephen Emms
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