I’m a bit late today and for that I apologise. It’s mainly because I spent yesterday defrosting the fridge and, well, I was a bit overwhelmed with breadcrumbs, bits of unrecognisable protein and some half-thawed coconut milk. My appetite was no more. Although I’m always complaining about not having a freezer I sometimes wonder if it is such a loss. After all, unless you are really disciplined, it’s the place where food goes to die. How many times have you defrosted yours and thrown away stuff with freezer burn, stuff that has been in there so long it’s unrecognisable or, in my case, tiny amounts of something that need a whole shopping expedition to be made viable (that coconut milk…)? Yes, thought so. In fact the only decent and usable piece of food, bar lime leaves which I defrost and refrost at will, was one lonely mackerel fillet. A lovely lilac one, as per its sibling of a few weeks ago, which I was determined not to waste.
And, since I recently downloaded Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s free Fish Fight app I thought I’d see if it would break my app duck: every one that I have downloaded so far (Martha Stewart Everyday Food, Real Simple No Time to Cook and This Morning Food) looks great but hasn’t really offered me any kind of inspiration or instruction. The River Cottage one is an exception. For a start it offers a really simple, short and visual explanation of how to buy fish; I think I learnt more in two minutes of watching than I have in years of reading about it. And, of course, because it’s part of a campaign to get consumers buying more sustainable and ethical fish, it is full of interesting recipes for uncommon fish. Mackerel is much more available than most, so it’s not difficult to find information on how to cook it but this app is a great source of ideas for the etymologically challenged gurnard, cockles (which, though I love, I associate only with sand and vinegar) and pouting.
The website says the app contains 50 recipes but I counted 75 which is half the length of a respectable-sized cookery book and, unlike every other app I’ve tried, it’s completely free. They’re not all HFW’s recipes so, even if you don’t like his stuff, you can try ones by lots of other chefs, such as Bruno Loubet, Mark Hix and Allegra McEvedy. It also has lists of which fish to buy/eat and which ones to avoid. Finally, if you don’t have a smartphone you can download a pdf of the recipes and fish to eat/not to eat lists. Really worth your time.
Simple fried mackerel with garlic and bay (adapted from the Fish Fight app)
For two you will need:
Cupboard (or things you may already have):
olive oil, a glug
garlic cloves, a couple
bay leaves, a couple
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
mackerel fillets, two medium to large
1. Peel the garlic but don’t chop it. Break the bay leaves up into small pieces.
2. Run your hand lightly over the fleshy surface of the mackerel fillets to remove any remaining bones. Season.
3. Put a frying pan over a medium heat, add a glug of oil and when it is quite hot, put the garlic and bay in the middle of the pan, lay the fish fillets skin-side down over the top of them and cook until the fish changes from that lovely lilac above to an opaque white. Once they are white, turn them over and cook flesh-side down for about a minute until lightly browned. The whole process should take no more than five minutes in total.
4. Once the fish is cooked, remove it from the pan (HFW suggests leaving the garlic and bay behind; I left the bay but ate the lovely caramelised garlic), squeeze lemon juice over the top and serve with a green or tomato salad, and rice or new potatoes.