The mackerel season has come to an end after a long and prosperous 9 months. Spanning almost three-quarters of the year, it is only the period from now until June in which mackerel is better enjoyed in its preserved form.
In season, mackerel should appear vibrant in colour, with shiny scales and vividly bright eyes. This inexpensive fish is packed full of rich flavour, carrying the best nutrients of any oily fish, and is perfect for grilling, frying or barbecuing.
When it comes to the months from March through to June however, I prioritise using smoked mackerel in favour of out-of-season varieties. Its rich flavour makes it the perfect candidate for handing the intensity of the smoking process, adopting the woody aromas to its advantage.
Although, as a rule-of-thumb, you must avoid using dairy-based ingredients when cooking with fresh mackerel, flaked smoked mackerel liberally mixed into cream cheese with lashings of lemon zest and fresh herbs makes for a perfect pate.
Although lemon offers freshness and lift to an otherwise rich recipe, my particular favourite addition to any mackerel pate is the peppery flavours of horseradish. Its biting and acidic flavours are ideal for cutting through the mackerel, yet its creamy tendencies complement accompanying dairy ingredients. Fresh is often best to pack-a-punch, but creamed horseradish makes for a more subtle palate.
Check out my Smoked Mackerel Ravioli recipe – easy, homemade pasta filled with a delicious smoked mackerel and horseradish pate. Accompanied with a decadent yet subtle horseradish sauce, this recipe makes for a great supper for two or antipasti for 4.
- 300g Plain flour (plus a little extra for dusting)
- 3 Free-range eggs
- 1tbsp Olive Oil
- 250g Smoked mackerel
- 2tbsp Cream cheese
- 1tbsp Creamed horseradish or Thumb-sized piece of finely grated fresh horseradish
- Small bunch of Dill
- Zest of half lemon
- Salt and pepper
- 50g Butter
- 50g Plain flour
- 500ml Milk
- 1 tbsp Creamed Horseradish
- 1 tsp Nutmeg
- Salt and Pepper
- In a large bowl or food processor, combine the flour, eggs and oil, mixing only until the mixture comes together. Turn out on a floured surface and knead for around 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place back in the bowl, cover and chill whilst making the filling.
- Flake the smoked mackerel into a bowl before mixing in the cream cheese, horseradish, lemon and seasoning. Finely chop the dill and add to the mackerel. At this stage the mackerel can be potted and either refrigerated or frozen and eaten as a delicious pate.
- Take the rested pasta dough, portion into two and roughly roll out each piece into two large rectangles. Preferably, pass through a pasta machine to achieve a very thin pasta. Alternatively, roll out by hand to a thickness of 1/2 – 1cm (this can be hard work – you need to be very strong with the dough to ensure it does not retract after rolling).
- On one rectangle, spoon walnut-sized balls of the mackerel pate on the pasta leaving at least a 5cm radius between each. With a wet finger, slightly dampen the pasta around each spoon of filling. Lay the other rectangle carefully on top of the mackerel filling, encasing it between the two pieces of pasta. Carefully mould the top layer of pasta round the filling with a light touch, eliminating any air trapped between each layer. Using a pasta stamp or sharp knife cut out the ravioli pieces before setting aside ready for cooking.
- Before cooking the ravioli make the horseradish sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan on a medium heat before adding the flour. Continually stir on the heat for around 2 minutes to cook off the flour. Gradually add the milk, continuing to stir achieving a smooth consistency before stirring in the horseradish, nutmeg and seasoning.
- Bring a pan of salty water to the boil, before carefully cooking the pasta for 4-5minutes on a gentle simmer (ensure not to overload – you may require a couple of pans). When tender, drain the pasta and serve with a generous spoon of sauce and a sprinkling of fresh dill. A pepper watercress salad is the perfect accompaniment.
- Meal for 2, light lunch for 3, and starter for 4.