The stars of this dish are the delicately pickled gooseberries and rhubarb, it is an easy quick pickle and in sealed jars they will keep for up to a month refridgerated. This recipe allows the fruit to speak for itself, but if you want to add pickling spices try fennel seed or corriander. Be sure not to over-cook the fish and its firm creamy flesh and crispy skin will be elevated by the sharp flavours of the pickle and the heat of horseradish. Remember to grate your horseradish slowly, too much and it will overpower the fish, so this is an ingredient to use to taste; and if you don’t have really sharp knives in your kitchen, ask your fishmonger to fillet your fish for you and make sure it is sustainably sourced, certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and/or Marine Conservation Society.
Serves 2 as a starter
- 1 whole mackerel
For the pickles:
- 450 ml cider vinegar
- 300 g sugar
- 200 g gooseberries, topped & tailed
- 2-3 large stalks rhubarb, chopped into 1 cm chunks
For the horseradish:
- ½ medium stick fresh horseradish, to taste
- 10 g sugar
- Cider vinegar, a splash
- Double cream
Oven: 160°C/325°F/Gas mark 3
For the pickle:
- Bring the sugar and vinegar to the boil in a pan.
- Place the rhubarb and gooseberries in two separate deep baking trays, it is important to keep them apart to preserve their distinct flavours.
- When the vinegar mixture has come to the boil pour over the fruit and cover with tin foil.
- Put the tray in the oven for around 8 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft but holding its shape and the gooseberries are about to burst.
- Set aside to cool.
For the horseradish:
- Grate the horseradish at a 90° angle to stop any long tough strips occurring.
- Taste as you go, stopping when you have reached a level of heat you enjoy.
- Mix in the vinegar and sugar and cover the bowl allowing it to stand for 10 minutes before stirring through the cream.
For the mackerel:
- To fillet the mackerel, cut off the head, and with a sharp filleting knife, slice all the way down either side of the back bone from head to tail. Trim off the bones at the belly, and discard. Then as neatly as possible slice down either side of the bones running down the centre of the fillet, taking care not to slice through the skin.
- Heat your pan until it is hot. Coat the mackerel fillets in oil and season. Place skin side down in the hot pan and hold them there for a second to stop the fillets from curling up. Cook for 3-4 minutes on the skin side before flipping over for one more minute on the flesh side to finish.