Mackerel is one of my favourite fish – a beautiful dark bluey purple with striped irridescent skin that is delicious and packed full of omega-3 rich oils. It is incredibly versatile and goes brilliantly well with robust, punchy flavours such as Thai and Indian spices but as delicious as these are, my boyfriend and I still love Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall’s mackerel bap made famous on The Fish Fight campaign programme. Crispy skinned juicy mackerel packed into a white floury bap smothered with tartare sauce – so tasty…
This recipe will be the first of lots more mackerel dishes so I thought I would start with a simple, traditional smoked mackerel pate. I learnt to smoke food at cookery school and it’s surprisingly simple with no danger of house fires at all – I promise! You don’t even need any specialist equipment so anyone can do it at home. All you need is a deep pan, like a large wok, and a wire rack for the fish to sit on. My rack just sits on top so I wrap two layers of foil tightly round the whole wok so the smoke doesn’t escape. You can use any number of things to create the smoke and impart flavour such as woody herbs like thyme or rosemary, loose tea, rice and sugar. I cure my fish first with salt to draw the moisture out as it gives the fish a firmer texture. It’s really easy to do and tastes amazing so I urge you to give it a go. I served the delicious pate with some fennel soda bread rolls, beetroot relish and some watercress.
20 minutes preparation, 10 minutes smoking
4 fresh mackerel fillets
Zest of half a lemon
Generous sprinkling of sea salt flakes, for curing
Bunch of fresh thyme
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp rice
3 tbsp tea
2 tbsp crème fraiche
1 tsp hot horseradish sauce
Juice of quarter lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
- Ensure there are no bones in the mackerel. You can either use pin-boning tweezers or cut in diagonally either side of the boney spine down the middle and remove. Lay the fish skin down on a plate and sprinkle with a generous amount of sea salt flakes, the zest of half a lemon and the leaves from about 4-5 sprigs of thyme. Don’t worry, the salt will be washed off so your blood pressure will stay safe! Leave for 30 minutes. It’s best to use your timer as you don’t want to leave it for any longer.
- Meanwhile, prepare your wok by putting a double layer of foil in the bottom. Add your smoking ingredients and lay the wire rack on top.
- After half an hour carefully rinse the curing ingredients off the mackerel under the tap and pat dry with kitchen towel. Oil the rack lightly with a brush and place the fish skin side down. Wrap two layers of foil tightly around and over the rack so there are no gaps but leave room at the top for the smoke to circulate.
- Put the gas on a moderate heat until you can smell smoke. Open the windows and then time for 10 minutes. This is just for the smell not smoke! Remove from the heat and leave for a further 10 minutes then remove the foil and allow the mackerel to cool completely.
- Flake the fish into a mixing bowl and add the crème fraiche, horseradish, lemon juice and lots of pepper. You shouldn’t need to add any more salt but taste and adjust if necessary. Mix gently, as you want to retain some texture and still see flakes of fish. Chill until needed.