Fish is fabulous food, easy to digest, full of flavour and simple to incorporate into everyday cooking. Because we’ve somehow become a nation of fish haters, suspicious fears of bones and skin creeping into our everyday psyche, we’ve forgotten how good it can taste when it isn’t battered within an inch of its life.
The good news is that tinned fish is about as nutritious as fresh. Mackerel is wonderful out of a tin. Mix the spicy tomato sauce type with mushrooms, onion, garlic and chilli and eat with pasta for a cheap and sapiditous meal. (About 88p a tin in some supermarkets).
Plain mackerel is also good.
Break up one portion of tinned mackerel fillets (in sunflower oil is better, but brine is fine) in a bowl. Dice a small piece of onion, as much as to taste and add to the bowl with a few pieces of finely chopped chilli, a squeeze of lime, a scraping of lime zest and a pinch of salt. Mix together, not too thoroughly; it isn’t mackerel mush on the menu.
Toast half a tablespoon of fennel seeds in a small dry frying pan until they begin to pop (keep shaking the pan until they do, burning is NOT your friend). Pound the toasted seeds in your mortar, smelling the warm, heady licquorice from the forming powder. A teaspoon of this is all you need in your mackerel salad to give it a different flavour. It enhances the smoky quality of tinned mackerel and evokes warm open campfires and incense. (Alternatively, add a teaspoon of ready powdered fennel, but it doesn’t do the same job.)
It’s best scooped into the cavities of Cos lettuce leaves (and in the case below, accompanied by a bit of caulislaw).