Mackerel fillets with parsley pesto and potato salad

I’ve always been taught that mackerel is a sustainable fish but, with the mismanagement of North Sea fisheries over recent years, this may be changing. However, official guidelines are that it is still ok to eat so maybe you ought to make the most of it while we’re still allowed to buy it.

Mackerel was the first type of fish I learnt to cook because it was included in the half a dozen recipe cards my mum wrote out for me when I went away to college. With it’s firm, oily flesh, I soon learnt that it was worth keeping the skin on and allowing it to become crisp. In the restaurant we often use baked oily-fish skin as a crackling-like appetiser. Lovely.

Today’s recipe makes for a nice summer starter or light lunch. I like it served with some creamed horseradish sauce alongside.

Serves two

Four small (or two large) mackerel fillets – ask the fishmonger to pin bone them
A tablespoon of seasoned plain flour
Six new potatoes – boiled, drained and lightly crushed
A stick of celery – peeled and sliced very finely
One small onion – peeled and sliced very finely
Extra virgin rape seed or olive oil
A handful of fresh parsley, flat or curly – picked over, washed and dried
A couple of walnuts or four hazelnuts
A garlic clove – peeled
One walnut-sized piece of cheddar cheese
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

First make the pesto by placing the parsley, nuts, garlic and cheese in a food processor or similar. Start processing while adding enough oil to make a slush with the consistency of double cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Any extra you don’t use can be kept in the fridge for up to a week.

To make the potato salad, place the crushed potatoes, celery and onion in a mixing bowl, add some salt and pepper along with a little oil and toss to coat and combine.

Place a heavy-based frying pan or griddle pan on the heat. Dip the fish fillets in the seasoned flour to coat both sides and shake off any excess. Once the pan’s very hot, add a little oil and place the fillets in it, skin side down. Turn the heat down to medium and allow the fish to cook for two to three minutes or until the skin’s getting good and crispy. Using a fish slice, flip the fish over and cook for a further minute on the other side or until cooked through.

To serve, pile the potato salad on plates, place the fish fillets on top and spoon the pesto around.

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