Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Smoked Scottish Mackerel and Ayrshire New Potatoes

Smoked mackerel fillets with new Ayrshire potatoes and peas

Mackerel is one of my favourite eating fish. It is delicious, nutritious and incredibly versatile in terms of the many different ways it can be cooked. Smoking mackerel is a great way of preserving it and adding a whole range of delicious new flavours, not just from the smoke but from the brining solution initially used on the uncooked fillets. I regularly go sea fishing and when I do get a nice bag of summer mackerel, I love to smoke them myself at home. This is a lot easier than you may think, with the results more than justifying the time invested.

Me preparing to smoke freshly caught mackerel fillets at home
I've written an easy to follow guide on how to smoke mackerel at home but aside from the fresh mackerel, the first thing you will need is a smoker. Smokers come in a huge variety of  forms (both hot and cold smokers) as well as a huge variety of price ranges but you can pick up a real bargain home smoker on your local Amazon Internet platform. It is also of course not just mackerel or even fish in general that you can smoke, with smoked duck breasts being a particular favourite of mine.

In this instance, however, the smoked mackerel and the remainder of the meal ingredients were supermarket bought, allowing anyone to prepare this tasty and nutritious meal at home.

Scottish Ayrshire potatoes

I remember as a child how my Gran used to look forward to the first Ayrshire potatoes of the season appearing in the shops each July. The dish prepared had to be be Loch Fyne herring, fried in oatmeal and served with buttered little Ayrshire potatoes. Tragically, the once abundant herring are long gone from Loch Fyne due to over-fishing and horrific commercial fishing practices but at least each July still brings Ayrshire potatoes to the shops.

Starting to cook Ayrshire potatoes by boiling

To prepare this dish the first thing I had to do was get the potatoes on to cook. These Scotty Brand potatoes had been prewashed so I simply added them to a pot with plenty of cold water and some salt. I put the pot on to reach a boil before reducing the heat to simmer for about twenty-five to thirty minutes until just soft.

Scottish smoked mackerel fillets

These vacuum packed smoked mackerel are ready to eat. They could simply be taken from the pack and plated but I prefer to remove the skin before I add them to the plate. To do this, simply pinch the skin at the tail (narrower, pointed) end and peel. It will usually come off fairly easily in one piece.

Peeling skin from smoked mackerel fillets

When the potatoes are ready, drain them through a colander at your sink. Let them steam off for a couple of minutes while you get the frozen peas on to cook.

Draining boiled potatoes

Unless you have peas in the garden which you are picking immediately before they are to be eaten, the healthiest way to buy peas is frozen. Even peas still in their pods at supermarkets or farmers' markets have been picked many hours or even days before so will have lost a lot of their natural sugars and nutritional value. Frozen peas are frozen within a couple of hours of being picked to freeze in all the natural goodness.

Frozen peas are added to boiling water

Add the peas to a pot of boiling water and simmer for three minutes. They can then be drained to serve.

When the peas are on, put the potatoes back in to your pot and add a knob of unsalted Scottish butter. Fresh herbs like mint or chives are excellent with potatoes but I also like to use dill, especially when I'm serving the potatoes with oily fish, with which dill also works extremely well.

Lay the skinned mackerel fillets on your serving plate before adding the potatoes. I like to season the drained peas with black pepper and malt vinegar while swirling them gently in the colander but this is optional before they are also plated. A lemon wedge was used here as a simple but final garnish.
Scottish butter and dried dill are added to boiled potatoes

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