Saturday, 6 September 2014

Pan Fried Mackerel Fillets with Rhubarb and Ginger Sauce

Mackerel fillets on watercress bed with rhubarb and ginger sauce

Mackerel is one of my favourite eating fish. I love it smoked, fried and even poached. While the mackerel itself is best cooked simply (in whichever way) its rich and powerful flavour can be wonderfully enhanced by a surprising number of different accompaniments.

Freshly caught mackerel fillets

Sadly, mackerel in recent times in the UK has gone the same way as so many other once plentiful types of fish and lost its wholly sustainable classification. Fortunately, this does not mean that we sea fishermen can not take a couple for the pot every now and again. These two mackerel were caught at St Catherines Jetty on Loch Fyne on Thursday before one of them was cooked up for a late dinner as shown below.

Filleting knife and board
In order to fillet your mackerel, you will need simply a large chopping board and a filleting knife.

Starting to fillet mackerel

Lay the mackerel on one side, holding the head with your weaker hand, and make a cut behind the pectoral fin, angled towards the head (see above). Turn the filleting knife and slice along the bone all the way to the tail.

First fillet removed from mackerel

Lift the fillet free, turn the mackerel over and do exactly the same again on the second side.

Cutting bones from mackerel

There is a ridge of bone runs along the centre of the fillets for around two-thirds of their length. This is easily cut away by making two collectively v-shaped cuts and pulling free.

Fillets from fresh mackerel

Wash the mackerel fillets carefully in a bowl of cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper.

Fresh rhubarb

This rhubarb was given to me from a local garden. By a strange coincidence, I love mackerel with rhubarb and hadn't had it for ages. So although most of the rhubarb was cleaned, blanched and frozen, I used one stick to make a sauce for my mackerel.

Rhubarb and ginger sauce ingredients

The rhubarb stalk was trimmed, washed and chopped in to roughly one inch pieces. The pieces went in to a saucepan along with two tablespoons only of cold water, half a teaspoon of sugar (you want some sweetness while retaining the tartness of the rhubarb) and a generous pinch of ground ginger. The saucepan went on to a medium heat until the water started to simmer. At which point, the heat was reduced to achieve the gentlest of simmers for about eight to ten minutes until the rhubarb was mostly broken down. This can be varied according to preference. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon.

Washing watercress

While the rhubarb is simmering, take two generous handfuls of watercress and rinse under cold water in a colander. Set aside on your draining board to drain.

Rhubarb and ginger sauce for mackerel

When the rhubarb and ginger sauce is ready, turn off the heat and set aside to cool slightly while you fry the mackerel fillets.

Mackerel fillets are patted on skin sides in seasoned flour

Scatter some plain (all purpose) flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper. Bring some vegetable oil up to a fairly high heat in a non-stick saucepan.

Mackerel fillets are firstly fried skin sides down

Pat the mackerel fillets on their skin sides only in the flour and lay away from you in to the hot pan, skin sides down. Season on the flesh sides. Cook for around three minutes until you can see the mackerel is almost cooked all the way through.

Mackerel fillets turned on to flesh sides to complete cooking

Turn the heat off under the pan and the fillets on to the flesh sides to complete cooking for about a minute in the residual heat only.

The perfect dish for serving fish

You may not of course have a fishy shaped dish like this one in which to serve your meal. Simply take an appropriate plate, ideally a deep one if you have one.

Watercress is arranged as a bed for mackerel fillets

Shake any remaining water from the watercress and arrange it on your plate as a bed for the mackerel fillets.

Mackerel fillets are laid on watercress bed

Lay the mackerel fillets skin side up on the bed of watercress. Spoon the rhubarb and ginger sauce alongside.

Crispy skin peels easily from mackerel fillets

The skin should be beautifully crisp, so much so that it will easy lift free from the mackerel flesh in a single piece.

Tucking in to mackerel with rhubarb and ginger sauce

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