I know from having run a cookery school for long enough that as an "island nation" people tend not to put fish on their priority shopping list. Is it mainly the bones that put people off? Is that why the most popular fish is the fish most easily filleted, salmon, monkfish and cod? Or perhaps it's the price. Whatever it is, it's a shame. As a standard, we eat too much meat and as far as chicken goes (as a nation we eat more chicken than beef), a lot of it is bad quality and "sadly" if not badly reared (or GROWN as many producers put it which is another sadness). Right now is a great time to be eating fish, mackerel in particular. It's a cheap fish, easily filleted but has quite a lot of bones. Pin bone them with a tweezers if you're very patient, if not, cut the central bone sleeve out once filleted. It must be VERY fresh or the texture and flavour will really change and not for the better. They actually freeze very well but only do so if they really are fresh. Freeze whole complete with guts(!) and make sure to wrap them in greaseproof paper then clingfilm and finally in tin foil. It's really the only way to keep them fresh enough to enjoy 3 months later.
This is a lovely recipe that I concocted the other night. It's really yummy and probably good enough to serve to your friends. It would also be worth making a few to have in the freezer. Don't forget the 3 wrapping layers though!
Mackerel with basil, peas & garlic wrapped in Parma Ham
This recipe makes a sort of mackerel ballotine with two fillets sandwiching an aromatic filling and then wrapped in Parma ham. You can use any fish really and also any type of filling, so swap anything you like!
8 mackerel fillets, completely boned and skinned
8 slices of Parma ham or similar cured ham
Small handful of basil, finely chopped
110g silvered almonds, toasted and cooled
1 clove garlic, finely sliced or grated
50g uncooked baby peas
2 tsp. anchovy paste
1 tbsp. rapeseed oil plus some for frying
Salt & pepper
- Start by mixing the filling ingredients in a bowl. Stir the basil, almonds, garlic, peas, anchovy paste and oil together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- On a clean board, lay 2 slices of Parma ham out, one slightly overlapping the other. Lay one mackerel fillet in the middle but slightly off-center. Season lightly and then spread a spoon of the basil mixture over the fillet. Lay another fillet on top.
- Wrap the mackerel fillets relatively tightly and neatly to form a sort of roll. Chill or freeze until needed.
- Remove the mackerel rolls from the frdige about 25 minutes before cooking to come back to room temperature.
- To cook, preheat the oven to 190C/375 F/gas5. Heat a pan with a little more oil and fry the fillets for about 2-3 minutes per side. Finish in the oven for about another 4 minutes. Allow to rest before slicing and serve with sliced new potatoes and baby peas or a tomato salad. Delish!