ROAST MACKEREL WITH POTATOES, ONIONS, THYME & SHERRY VINEGAR
I can remember as a youngster those long summer evenings fishing for mackerel off the pier at South Beach in Blyth, Northumberland.
It was such a civilised way to fish. You didn't even need messy bait, just something shiny like a hook or lure. Cast your line off the end of the pier and wait…….and before you had time to finish your pop and crisps you would have two or three silver, streamlined, blue striped fish in your haversack.
These fishy memories always come back at this time of year as the mackerel season gets into swing. And whereas back then I used to hand over my catch to my mother to cook, these days once I see them in the fishmongers, I can’t wait to buy some and get cooking myself.
Mackerel are one of my favourite fish to cook and to eat.
They look magnificent, sleek, fast, even beautiful - but not in the same way as my wife, in case you are reading this, oh light of my life - and are one of the healthiest fish to eat, with lots of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Being an oily fish, you need a sharp, even acidic accompaniment to go with it to counteract the richness, and gooseberry sauce is the traditional route. Mackerel can be cooked almost any way, frying, poaching, baking but grilling or barbecuing them is my favourite way, as I love the skin when it blisters and turns crispy.
I suppose the only downside to choosing mackerel is having to pin bone the fillets before cooking, but this should be seen as a labour of love, since the end result is so worth it.
Even after filleting a whole mackerel, you will still have a line of pin bones running down the centre of each fillet. Just lay them flat and with a pair of tweezers, pull out each the bones. They are easy to see and this only takes minutes, and means you are not worrying about bones when you are eating.
But please, do not let this put you off mackerel.
They are a magnificent fish and this recipe, in my opinion, shows it off in the best possible way, with the creamy rich flesh and charred crispy skin offset with a sharp sherry vinegar, olive oil and thyme dressing. The addition of roast sliced potatoes and onions makes this into a substantial lunch or supper. And even better, it can all be done in one dish.
4 good sized mackerel fillets, pin boned
750g new potatoes, I used Ayrshire but Charlotte would also be good
3 large banana shallots, or 1 large red onion, sliced
4-5 sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped
Sea salt & black pepper
Slice the potatoes about ¼” (6-7mm) thick and place in a bowl. Add 4-5 tbsp of olive oil, the thyme leaves, the sliced shallots or red onion, and a good sprinkling of salt & pepper. Give a good mix around then tip into a suitable shallow roasting dish.
Roast in a 200℃/180℃ fan oven for about 40-45 minutes, turning once, until golden and tender.
Meanwhile, make the dressing.
Mix together about 3 tbsp of olive oil, 2 tbsp sherry vinegar, tbsp of thyme leaves and some seasoning. Taste to see if it is right for you. If you like it sharper add a bit more vinegar, less sharp, a little more olive oil.
When the potatoes are done, remove the roasting dish from the oven and place the mackerel fillets skin side up over the potatoes.
Drizzle the dressing over the fish and potatoes and put back in the oven for approximately 20 minutes until the potatoes begin to char at the edges and the mackerel skin is starting to crisp up and blister slightly.
If you find the skin isn't crisping up quite enough for you, flash grill under a high heat for a minute or so until done. No more than a couple of minutes though, or you will overdo the fish.
Serve piled onto a plate with a crispy fillet of mackerel on top with plenty of juices ready to be soaked up with some chunks of crusty bread.
Enjoy, and be satisfied that you have done this fantastic fish justice.