#380 Gooseberry Sauce for Mackerel

After the rather wet start to the summer, I was beginning to think that this year’s gooseberries were never going to arrive. Then we had that glorious stint of hot weather. Now we have so many gooseberries and other soft fruit, we barely know what to do with them. Well here’s one thing, just as mackerel is in season. I like Jane’s introduction to this recipe:
On May 26th, 1796, Parson Woodforde [we have met him in the blog before, see here] and his neice, Nancy, had for their dinner ‘a couple of maccerel boiled and stewed gooseberries and a leg of mutton roasted’. In other years, they were not so lucky; the gooseberries did not always ripen for the arrival of the first spring mackerel.
Ms Grigson’s recipe is a very simple one indeed:
Begin by topping and tailing 8 ounces of gooseberries and then melt an ounce of butter in a pan. Add the gooseberries, cover with a lid and cook until soft. I love how they go from vivid green to an almost straw-yellow when heated.
Use your wooden spoon to crush the berries on the side of the pan to form a rough purée, you could, if you are so inclined, pass them through a sieve to produce a smooth sauce. I don’t see the point in these things normally; it’s not like gooseberry seeds are particularly offensive.
The tart flavour of the gooseberries is cut with either ¼ pint of double creamor béchamel sauce. I went for the latter for health’s and money’s sake. Taste the sauce and add a little sugar, if needed, don’t make it sweet like an apple sauce for pork.
That’s it! Very simple and not just for mackerel either, but other oily fish, roast duck, pork, lamb, veal and – no surprises – goose.
#380 Gooseberry Sauce for Mackerel. A triumph of good, simple cooking. The creaminess of the béchamel did a great job of wrapping its way around those tart gooseberries, so much so that only a pinch of sugar was required. I could eat it all on its no problem! 8.5/10

#355 Devilled Herring or Mackerel

When I was in America there was one part of English Food I had to almost ignore: the Saltwater Fish section of the Fish chapter. This is because the seas surrounding the USA and the UK contain different species of fish. Mackerel and herring were particularly difficult to get hold of and when they were around they had been imported from Spain!

I thought I would get going with this simple recipe where the herring or mackerel are painted with a spicy mixture (the ‘devil’) and grilled. Devilling was a popular way of livening up almost any kind of food that really caught on during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. If you are not used to cooking fish, this would be a great place to start I think.

This recipe serves six, but it can easily be scaled up or down.

Get yourself 6 fresh herring or mackerel and ask the butcher to clean them reserving any roes should they have them. Roes are usually found around February time so there were none for me!

At home preheat the grill, then rinse the fish inside and out, pat them dry and make several diagonal cuts down the sides of each one then get to work on that devil. Mix together 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons of sunflower or groundnut oil, ¼ teaspoon of Cayenne pepper and a good pinch or two of salt.
 
Using a brush, paint both sides of the fish with the devil. If you do have roes, paint them too and slip them inside the fishes’ cavities. Roll them in dry breadcrumbs(you’ll need about 3 ½ ounces), then sprinkle with around 3 ½ fluid ounces of melted butter.

Line your grill pan with foil and the fish on it. Grill 6 minutes one side, then 6 minutes on the other, basting every now and again. The skin should blister and begin to blacken. Serve hot with lemon wedges and some sprigs of parsley.

#355 Devilled Herring or Mackerel. This was very good; the fish was perfectly cooked and the skin had gone nice and crispy. However, there was no way near enough of the devil mixture on the fish, in fact I hardly noticed it. If you try the recipe, I would double the amount of mustard and Cayenne pepper at least, or perhaps exchange the Dijon mustard for hot English mustard. Very succulent fish, but there was nothing devilish, and so because of this I am going to give it 5.5/10.

#310 Smoked Mackerel

There are ingredients for recipes in the book that I really thought I wouldn’t be able to find, and one of those is smoked mackerel. Smoked mackerel was a new addition to English cuisine at the time of writing English Food and these days it is quite easy to find in supermarkets. So why is there a problem? Well, Griggers says to keep away from the hot-smoked (i.e. cooked) mackerel as she says it often ends up as mush; no, only cold-smoked mackerel will do. When I lived in Britain, I had no luck finding anywhere that sells it. However, here in Saint Louis, as I was having a walk around Global Foods – a large international food market – what did I happen upon just sat there in the refrigerator as bold as brass? Yes, a large cold-smoked mackerel. It is amazing what you find when you’re not looking. It turns out that cold-smoked mackerel is very popular in Eastern Europe. It obviously didn’t catch on that well in England, though Griggers gets full marks for trying to push it.

Like many recipes in the Cured Fish section of the Fish chapter, this isn’t really a recipe, as there is no cooking involved, it’s really advice on how best to serve it.


First you need to fillet the fish, removing any bones, and arrange pieces of the fillet on a plate. I was pretty impressed with my presentation here; I’m not very good at that sort of thing normally. She suggests serving the mackerel with lemon quarters and brown bread and butter. Because there was no cooking involved, I felt it was a bit of a cop-out recipe, so I baked some bread myself. Jane also suggests making a gooseberry sauce flavoured with horseradish. There is zero chance of finding gooseberries here in Missouri so I couldn’t do that part, but it was just a suggestion, so I reckon I can let myself off…


#310 Smoked Mackerel. A delicious fish it was, no wonder Grigson wanted to get us all eating it. It was very much like eating smoked sashimi, which is certainly not a bad thing. It was much more firm and flavoursome than smoked salmon, which can often be weirdly gelatinous in its texture. The smoky flavour was excellent and bona fide; it smelled as though it had just been snatched from the smokehouse. I think cold-smoked mackerel might catch on these days; sushi is popular and people are much less likely to turn their noses up at raw (though perfectly-cured) fish. Hopefully it might get a second chance. 7/10.

#159 Creamed Roe Loaves

Here at Grigson Towers, we don’t like to let anything go to waste, and our tasty fishes are certainly something that should be at treated with a huge amount of respect. So do your bit by making your mackerel (or herring) go further by asking your friendly fishmonger to fish out the fishes’ roes when he guts them. After all you have paid for them anyway.

There’s quite a few roe recipes in English Food and I’ve tried them, so I thought I’d better get started. This one seemed straight-forward and is very similar (and cheaper!) to the oyster loaves recipe, so I was sort of on familiar ground. The good thing about this recipe is that you can reduce the amounts accordingly depending upon how many roes you have – in fact I only had enough to make one!

FYI: In case you didn’t know (and don’t let this put you off) the soft roe of a fish is the sperm, and therefore from a male fish. They’ve gone out of favour, with some fishmongers just throwing them away instead of selling them! Another thing we need to try and bring back, people!

Prepare 8 small rolls of bread just like for the oyster loaves. To make the filling, soften 3 shallots or 3 tablespoons of onion in butter over a low heat. Add ½ pint of double cream and cook until it thickens. Cut the roes into one centimetre cubes and place them in the cream and allow them to poach gently – this only takes a few minutes. Add parsley and chives and season with salt, black pepper and Cayenne pepper, plus a squeeze of lemon juice to cut through the creaminess. Spoon the mixture into the hollow loaves and serve immediately.

#159 Creamed Roe Loaves – 7.5/10. I really enjoyed my first foray into roe gastronomy, though a dated dish, you could modernise it easily by serving it on toast instead, or something. They are very soft and have a very delicate flavour. Try them, don’t fear the fish sperm – you’ll like the flavour and texture – and, after all, you’ll happily eat fish eggs (or bird eggs), so what’s the difference?

#158 Gooseberry Stuffing for Mackerel

Apart from Britain and the Netherlands, gooseberries are not grown and eaten in large numbers. This is because they’re not a particularly popular fruit for desserts. However, they are often served with mackerel as in this traditional English recipe. It seems to be a combination that has gone out of favour these days – I’ve certainly never eaten them with fish, though I have has tuna and rhubarb before and that was lovely, so I’ve high hopes for this one.

This makes enough stuffing for 4 mackerel:

Top and tail 8 ounces of gooseberries and cook them gently in ½ an ounce of butter until they just begin to soften and pop. Mash them with the back of a wooden spoon, and when luke warm add another 1 ½ ounces of butter and 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs. Season them up with salt, and both black and Cayenne pepper, plus a little sugar if the gooseberries are too tart (they need quite a lot of tartness, to cut through the oily mackerel).

Bone the mackerel, or ask your fishmonger to do it (if you want to do it yourself – and it is very easy – follow this link for instructions) and divide the mixture up between them. Place them in a buttered ovenproof dish and season the skin with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes at 190⁰C. I served them with salad.


#158 Gooseberry Stuffing for Mackerel – 8/10. This was a taste sensation. The piquant gooseberry stuffing cuts through the rich oily mackerel so well. This really is a recipe that needs a resurgence. Now is the perfect time to make it people – both gooseberries and mackerel are in season. Isn’t it funny how things that are in season at the same time, seem to go so well together? It’s almost as though God planted them all there for us. Unfortunately, I’m too old to still believe in God, so I assume that there’s a better explanation.