Chef masterclass: Smoke signals & silver darlings
- Credit: Archant
Flapping-fresh mackerel hot off the griddle, has got chef Stephen David all fired-up. Photography: Sarah Lucy Brown
We all love a good barbecue when the sun shines, but it can be a risky business planning an al fresco celebration in the UK. Even in lovely Suffolk, drier and sunnier compared to most of the country, scheduling to cook outdoors is still meteorological roulette. But if you choose the right dishes, you can create a moveable feast to be enjoyed nice and dry inside while it drizzles, or outdoors with the sun on your backs.
I want to be eating al fresco as much as possible and the weather has a direct
influence on what I like to cook and serve up to family or guests, whether in the depth of winter or the height of summer. Who wants salad leaves with snow on the ground or stew and dumplings with shorts on? (That’s you with the shorts on, not the stew).
So this month’s recipe is all about user-friendliness. That’s not just chef-friendly, so you don’t have to be stuck in the kitchen, but also guest-friendly so your lucky diners don’t have to suffer, shivering under wet parasols.
Chargrilling really does bring the outside in, should it get too rainy and miserable on the terrace. I love seafood and one of my summery favourites is fresh mackerel, grilled in all their silver-blue brilliance, glistening in the sunshine. So here is the indoors method for chargrilling mackerel with a lovely warm salad, which is just as easy to do on a smoking-hot barbecue. Enjoy!
Chargrilled Mackerel – step-by-step
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Feel free to mix this recipe up with what you have available. Something starchy like new potatoes, celeriac, sweet potato or butternut squash is the base of the tray bake, then just add in whatever colourful combination of textures and flavours of tender veggies takes your fancy. Crisp leaves and salad ingredients work well, tossed through after cooking for a warm salad effect.
If it’s hot outside, you can let this cool before serving, as it eats just as well at room temperature.
The zesty dressing works well with something zingy. I’ve suggested optional caperberries – go for the smaller ones in brine rather than the vinegary large buds. You could equally use shredded black olives or baby cornichon gherkins. (serves 4)
2 fennel bulbs (feathery tops reserved)
4 large flat or chestnut mushrooms
4 handfuls baby new potatoes, skin-on and par-boiled
1 bulb of garlic cloves, unpeeled but broken up
4 vines of cherry tomatoes
Sea salt and black peppermill
12 asparagus spears
12 thin streaky bacon rashers
4 whole gutted mackerel, head removed (I work on one person for lunch)
1 jaffa orange, grated zest and juice reserved
1 tbsp chives, shredded
Baby capers, rinsed and drained (optional)
• Pre-heat your oven to 190c and heat up the chargrill on a medium-hot hob
• Roughly shred the fennel and cut the mushrooms into chunks
• Toss the potatoes, fennel, mushrooms, garlic cloves and tomatoes with a little oil to coat and generous seasoning
• Tip into a baking tray and roast until cooked through
• Meanwhile wrap the asparagus stalks with the bacon, glaze with balsamic and seasoning, then bake until browning and tender
• Whilst vegetables are cooking, lightly oil and season your fish on both sides
• Score each side of the fish a few times and insert sprigs of fennel top
• Griddle the fish until well-browned before turning and then continue until fully-cooked through
• Meanwhile whisk the zest and juice with treble the volume of oil plus seasoning to taste and chives stirred through
• Serve up the traybake vegetables and the asparagus on a hot platter, drizzled with the dressing (plus capers if using) and finishing with the hot mackerel on top.
Rebecca and Stephen David would love to discuss how they might bring their culinary talent and welcoming approach to your personal celebrations. Contact Rebecca Mackenzie on 01986 893991 or email email@example.com to discuss your special event.