Saturday, 10 December 2011

Warm mackerel and beetroot salad

I love fish, almost all kinds, and I aim to eat it twice a week. Oily fish especially is a very healthy food as it contains important omega oils that are good for the heart. I'm lucky enough to have a fishmonger on my doorstep where I can get super-fresh fish off the boats that morning. The bigger supermarkets have a fish counter but I must admit I'm sometimes a little wary how fresh the fish is.

Smoked fish is a good option if you can't get fresh. As with all fish, you may need to pick out some bones but smoked mackerel has very few. It can be a bit smelly so wrap it well when you store it in the fridge. This recipe is very quick to make, filling and very good for you.

What you need: 
2 small fillets of smoked mackerel
4-5 small potatoes
1 medium cooked beetroot, peeled
9-10 capers
A generous handful of flat-leaf parsley
Oil, white wine vinegar and grain mustard

What to do:
Boil the potatoes in their skins until just tender. While they are cooking, skin the mackerel and break the flesh into large flakes. Cut the beetroot into quarters and then each quarter into 2-3 pieces. Rinse the capers to rid them of their brine and drain them. Roughly chop the parsley.

Whisk up a dressing of olive oil, white wine vinegar and half a teaspoon of grain mustard, then season it with a little freshly ground black pepper. Drain the potatoes when ready, then halve or quarter them into bite-sized pieces. Put all the ingredients into a bowl and pour over the dressing so the potatoes can absorb it while they are still hot. Stir through to mix everything.

Cook's tips:
It's easier to skin the mackerel by hand. Take it out of the fridge at least half an hour before you start cooking - the skin slides off easier at room temperature. I also break it into pieces by hand.

I like to roast my beetroot as it brings out its sweetness but it can take 1.5 to 2 hours (scrub, wrap in foil and bake at 180C, then skin when cool) so I often roast 3-4 or in one batch, keeping most in the fridge after cooking until I'm ready to use them. If you buy precooked beetroot, make sure you don't get the ones preserved in vinegar as they are too sour for this. Most supermarkets sell cooked beets that are preserved only by their vacuum-packing.

If you don't like capers, use sliced gherkins. Either way, rinse before use to get rid of the vinegar.

For the dressing I like to use 2/3 olive oil and 1/3 lemon-infused oil to add a sharp lemon tang. Mackerel is a very oily fish so I tend to use more vinegar in the dressing than I would usually - a proportion of 2/3 oil to 1/3 vinegar, rather than the usual ratio of 3/4 to 1/4. Don't add salt - there's plenty in the fish.