21 April 2009


We went to our local farm shop the other day and besides getting a bunch of the first asparagus of the year, we wandered in to the little annex where a big man in a white coat sells fresh fish.

This is a new thing Lundulph keeps talking about - eating fish a few times a week. As a non-fish-eater, I find this difficult to swallow, literally, but I'm learing and developing my palette. So we bought two large mackerels. I do eat smoked mackerel with garlic, so thought I'd be able to eat this too.

We got them cleaned out and ready to cook too, which was both good as it saved a lot of time in preparations, but also bad, because it gives me a bit of a nostalgic trip back to my school days when we dissected various animals.

Anyway, I had a fairly clear idea about what I wanted to do, but ran it through with my Mum, who loves fish and seafood. She recommended barbecue as the best method for mackerel and not to bother with anything but salt and pepper. Now despite the apparent heatwave we're having in the UK, we weren't in any way ready for a barbecue, so I decided to go with my original plan and bake in the oven. I quickly checked on Delia Smith's web site to find out temperature and duration of the baking, well, she pretty much had what I had in mind but I want to point out I thought of it on my own accord.

Since there were two mackerels to play with, I decided to try my Mum's recommendation on one of them and my idea on the other.

I washed the mackerels and dried them with kitchen tissue. Then I placed them onto the grid of the grill pan and pre-heated the grill on medium. Then I opened up both of the mackerels and sprinkled salt and pepper onto both. I drizzled olive oil on the smaller one, then closed it and cut slashes through the skin on both sides like in Delia's photo.

For the second and slightly larger mackerel, I also sprinkled crushed dried chili, put in 6-7 peeled cloves of garlic inside along with a few sprigs of thyme, before drizzling olive oil again and cutting slashesh through the skin. It was tricky to get the garlics to stay in, they kept popping out.

Then into the oven for about 20 minutes, where the fish pretty much opened up and went whitish.

As an accompaniment, I boiled potatoes, but I only had roasting floury ones, so decided to crush them. At the last minute I got the idea to mix some mustard in for a bit of oomph, sadly once again I turned my back at the pan and it boiled dry and added a nasty tinge of burnt to the tatties. Lundulph didn't like them at all, he's not too keen on mustard and combined with the burned flavour, he just refused to eat it. I thought it was sort of OK, would have been better with just the mustard of course. A least I didn't have to scrape the pot too much, it was black, but not too bad.

Finally I steamed the asparagus for precisely 5 minutes and it turned out beautiful, I've got the hang of asparagus cooking these days, the special pot was well worth it. This asparagus was grown only a couple of miles from where we live and it tasted a bit sweeter than the stuff we get in the supermarket. It was a bit bland though, but I guess it depends on the variety. In a few weeks time, the farm will start their Pick-your-own activity and I'll get to pick asparagus myself.

So overall, it was an OK-ish meal (or would have been, if I hadn't messed up the potatoes). The fish wasn't too fishy and the texture was mostly good, but it was a bit on the slimey side. When Lundulph had it later on and re-heated in the microwave oven, he said the texture improved. I didn't have any of the leftovers at all. One thing is that I should have taken some time to remove as much of the bones as possible. One thing about mackerel is that it's quite full of bones, so getting a large specimen means the bones are a bit bigger and once cooked, they come out fairly easily. But we were hungry that day, so everything was a bit rushed.


Still Lundulph thinks it's encouraging and wants to continue experimenting. The photo looks better than it tasted. Next time I'll tie them, so they don't open up during baking.

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