Courier – Mackerel
For my column this month I to express my love for one of my favourite fish. The humble and beautiful mackerel, and what a great fish it is. It’s very inexpensive to buy (I, however, hate the word cheap) healthy and rich in omega 3 with very little fat. Lastly, they have got to be one of the best-looking fish as well, not that I find fish attractive but the amazing blue, silver shine of them and deeply exotic vertical stripes on their backs and forked tails.
They are found in both temperate and tropical seas, mostly living along the coast or offshore in the oceanic environment. We are lucky enough in Scotland that all along the east and north coast that we have them in abundance when the season is right. I am very lucky to have a couple of amazing fish suppliers that as soon as they have some available we get it into a restaurant.
I also have a source who line catches them in exchange for some lunch at the restaurant which being self-employed, a great little trade-off. The great thing about mackerel really is how versatile it is, you can grill it, fry it, bake it, steam it, cure it, eat it raw or pickle it, every technique works really well. One of my personal favourites is an escabeche, which is a Latin American dish basically meaning marinated and cooked in an acidic mixture and sometimes coloured with pimento or saffron. In my version we poach the fish very gently in the mixture, cool it down and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight. I also love it as the pate with some hot toast and pickled gooseberries. This works better with smoked mackerel fillets or the peppered one you get in most supermarkets or small fishmongers. Basically, blend in a food processor, 3 parts cooked mackerel fillets (skin and bones removed) with 1-part cream cheese, season with salt, pepper and lemon juice and its done.
Despite the benefits, mackerel is often overlooked by the public, it seems we are put off by its richness, fishiness and oiliness, the very traits that give it such a great character. However, the right cooking and flavour pairings it is a real treat.
What to look for when buying mackerel.
Mackerel is a comparatively sustainable fish through the marine conservation society recommends only buying line caught the UK landed mackerel were possible and eat it only occasionally.
Mackerel spoils quickly which, in years gone by this has given the fish a bad name. Ideally, it should be eaten on the day it is caught, unless it is frozen, smoked or pickled look for firm, almost rigid fish with clear eyes and shiny bodies.