Holy mackerel!

Mackerel fillets and rhubarb compote

Tonight I got the chance to pair up mackerel and rhubarb, as I’d planned last weekend when I bought the forced rhubarb. I persuaded a rather skeptical friend to come round to join me for this slightly disconcerting combo. What was the verdict? Read on to find out…

On Thursday I stewed the five stalks of rhubarb down with a tablespoon or two of muscavado sugar. If I’d been more prepared I’d have used some homemade vanilla sugar: I’ve done this before and the vanilla-y notes sit really well against the astringent qualities of the rhubarb. However I didn’t have any lying around and I was too impatient to wait for the vanilla to enfuse into some new sugar. Once this had stewed for half an hour or so I stirred, tasted and covered the pan to cool. My rationale was that by leaving the compote to sit for 24hours at room temperature the flavours would intensify and mature. After all, most things taste better the next day…

I rather like mackerel: loads of flavour, good firm flesh, and of course it’s meant to be brimming with Omega-oil goodness. Brain food! Plus it has a wonderful striped skin which looks just stunning. I often buy smoked mackerel to use as the basis for a good pâté: a quick and easy win with some thickly-cut brown toast, slathered in butter. When I bought the mackerel from the supermarket (larger Morrisons have good fish counters and are about the only way I get the chance to buy fresh fish during the long working week) I got the fishmonger to fillet the fish, but keep the heads and backbones for a stock. I soused the fish fillets in lime juice and soy sauce for an hour beforehand, then grilled the fillets, skin-side down for about 4-5 minutes. The diagonal slashes in the skin are both aesthetic and practical: they stop the skin from crisping and curling up under the heat.

When the fillets went onto the plates they smelled great. I added a spoonful of the rhubarb compote, suddenly nervous whether this pairing would work. The theory was good: oxalic acidity cutting through the rich oiliness of the fish; but I was unsure whether it would live up to the bombastic billing I’d awarded it to my (still skeptical) friend. A few mixed leaves, and a generous portion of rustically-presented colcannon mash finished the dish off, and it was time for the taste test.

Boom! Quite a combination –  cool, sweet and sour fruitiness playing off against warm, oily and savoury flesh – this was really good stuff. The proof of this was on my friend’s plate, which was wiped clean with an almost supernatural speed. Job done, happy eating … and a long-standing ambition to try out this combination had finally been fulfilled. I have to highly recommend this: please try it. Ranks alongside black pepper and strawberries for an odd combo of sweet and savoury…

The rest of the rhubarb was perfect for breakfast the next day, mixed up with a bowl of local natural yoghurt. Wonder if I could persuade Miss South to indulge in this, or would it be beyond the (yoghurt) pale?

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5 replies
  1. miss_south
    miss_south says:

    I’ll skip the yoghurt thanks, but I’ll raise you a bowl of steaming porridge instead. Rhubarb lifts it to something truly divine; almost like having pudding for breakfast!

  2. mister_north
    mister_north says:

    I almost did that in place of my trusty banana, honey & cinnamon porridge… but couldn’t resist the yoghurt-y option. Next time I will have rhubarb-ified oats instead!

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