SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL Fresh mackerel is so full of flavour it does not a need complicated sauce.
Plate up some sunshine
In all truth, the summer so far may not have been the best ever. On the face of it we have little to shout about. The soccer team didn’t win the European cup, the weather is tough, the farmers are struggling and the constant attrition of the economy is wearing and wearying.
Yet, magic moments of beauty have still managed to shine through recently. Seeing the first local spuds reach the farmers’ and country markets is quite something.
James Joyce would have a field-day with the childhood associations of sitting down to a table of steaming new-season spuds topped with butter. Never will spuds taste as good as they do at the beginning of the season. The slight mush of the skins after they have knocked around in the pan’s boiling water; the succulent touch of salt over floury potato flesh, crunchy and squelchy; your inner mouth salivating, excited, stimulated by this gift of nature that appears every year.
The season brings other joys too. Seeing Country Fresh sell local produce from local farmers; enjoying quick fry-ups with spinach; crunching and enjoying – really enjoying – the new spring onions and onions; watching a young child mini gorge on local fresh fruit; dipping your fingers into the first honey pot of the season and trying to guess the flavours of what flowers those bees have harvested from in the last months.
Suddenly those dark clouds are paled away by the good things in life.
Here are two July favourites that we cook up a lot of now in our house. They ain’t fancy, they ain’t complicated, but they lift our spirits as much as a lotto win with their vibrant, seasonal, fresh, nutritious flavours bursting through to spread the love in our household. You’ll also get one or two key tips, such as adding a touch of water to eggs, and getting the balance right between mixing, pouring and WAITING. (Non-interference can sometimes be the hardest part!)
Grilled mackerel with olive oil, horseradish and lemon
Mackerel readily available now all over Mayo, this simple method demonstrate skin blistering under the grill, and a 5 minute rest period ensures the whole fillet is cooked without turning. The use of horseradish adds a bite and a spice to complement rich, juicy fish flesh.
What you need
- 1 mackerel per person
- Olive oil
- Some fresh horseradish
- Sea salt
What you do
Fillet each mackerel. (This is relatively simple, and all about getting the sharp knife in behind the gills and turning it level with the back bone and running it down to the tail just above the mini rib bones – Google it!). Drizzle with oil, sprinkle sea-salt on and lay skin-up on tin foil on your grill tray.
Place under the grill, and leave it there for about eight to ten minutes, until the skin blisters up blackened. Turn off grill and close the door, leaving the fish resting inside for five minutes. Remove and plate up with a sprinkling of grated horseradish and a squeeze of lemon.
Toasted courgette eggs
This provides a great lunch meal for this time of year, or an excellent dinner starter portion. Serve with fresh summer leaves and vinaigrette dressing. Perfecto. The dish has a great colour combination of yellow and green, and great fresh flavours too.
What you need
- 1 courgette cut into rings
- 5 free-range eggs
- 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- Olive oil
- Cheese (optional)
Like the mackerel fillets above, we want to blacken the courgette rings in the pan without burning them. You want delicious, browned, crunchy skin in patches.
Fry the courgette rings in a heavy pan over a medium heat with a little salt and the chopped garlic. Don’t rush it. Be patient. You want them to brown and crisp up with time, slowly mixing with the punchy salt and the almost-sweet garlic flavour.
Break your eggs into a mixing bowl. Add salt and freshly ground pepper, a dash of water from tap and a dash of milk and gently mix up, only just breaking eggs. Pour the egg mixture over the hot courgettes in the pan.
Wait for five mins, then break down middle of eggs with a wooden spoon and loosely flip over either side. Then leave it alone another four minutes.
Finish under the grill with a sprinkle of cheese if the mood takes you. You want finished product of wet eggs, not all dried and burnt up, so keep an eye on proceedings. Add some fresh chopped red chillies if you like.
Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm, and Newport Street Market on Fridays, 11am to 4pm.