Mackerel a la L'Autre Pied
Looking for a sustainable, healthy and tasty fish? Try mackerel.
The healthy omega-3 oils carry masses of flavour. You probably need not ask a doctor to know that fish containing omega-3 oils are the ones which should be consumed at least twice a day.
A sustainable choice for this fish is mackerel caught by either Cornish fishermen or in EU or Norway (however, not Iceland or Faroe islands). Cornish fishermen using traditional methods produce the fish of highest quality. This fish certified as level two by MCS or as “fish to eat”. Mackerel caught by EU and Norwegian vessels is a "fish to eat with caution". Both EU and Norway are committed to a binding long-term fisheries management agreement with strict quotas for their vessels to ensure the long term health of the stock. As always labour intensive fishing methods ensure that the caught fish are of higher quality. Or as my local fishmonger, who sources mackerel from Cornwall puts it - they are just "bigger, more succulent and just delicious".
To be honest, I have never actually cooked mackerel until recently. A dish at L'Autre Pied in Marylebone became a complete revelation: mackrel pieces were served with a umami miso sauce with hazelnuts, apple tapioca and celery (picture courtesy www.wrapyourlipsaroundthis.com).
The fattiness of the mackrel was wonderfully counterbalanced by the acidity of the apple and supplemented by savouriness of the miso sauce. Crunchiness of the hazelnuts added texture to the dish - all seemed to be in perfect balance. At the next trip to Billingsgate I got myself a couple of nice shiny mackerels and used my memories of the dish as an inspiration.
Don’t you think their sleek streamlined bodies are very pretty to look at?
The fish are fairly easy to prepare: after cleaning they do not require any descaling - there is only a thin snake-like skin membrane with tiny scales attached which you need to pull off. However, the fish are quite bony. You can always ask your fishmonger to do the hard job for you and pinbone them. However, if you buy a mackerel at Billingsgate you’ll have to do it yourself. I was planing to serve my mackerel as a starter and needed small pieces for it, so I took a lazy way and just cut the bones out with the knife and cut the resulting filets in small diamonds. For my umami sauce I heated some soy sauce, together with a splash of lime, balsamic and white wine vinegar, added a bit of chilly together with crushed lemon grass and pink peppercorns. Then I plunged the shiny mackerel into it.
Instead of making apple flavoured tapioca balls I balled some braeburn apples with an smallest melon baller I had - it seems that cox or braeburn apples with their firm and somewhat sour flesh would be the best complement for my dish. To serve I seared the fish for a couple of seconds (you could also serve it without searing as the marinade will have already cooked it through).
I plated the mackerel, apple balls, marinade and hazelnuts and topped it with some spring onions.
L'Autre pied, thank you for the inspiration!