The most recent menu at ‘The Montpelier Basement’ supper club I run with ‘E’ in Bristol featured a dish we were quite pleased and fairly smug with. A starter-sized portion of superb fresh Cornish mackerel rolled in oats and fried, served with a parsley and red onion salad. On the side, in some glassware shaped like miniature milk bottles, we served a garish pink rhubarb ketchup. Rhubarb and mackerel go really well together, and it seemed to be appreciated by the diners so I thought I’d share the recipe.
Believe it or not, we found the rhubarb ketchup recipe in Phil Vickery’s ‘Favourite Food – The best of British cooking’. An inspired charity shop find. I’d normally instantly discard any of the ex Ready Steady Cook crew’s literary output to a convenient furnace, but for some reason, I fought down the gag reflex, and choked back my rising bile and flicked through. Sold! It’s actually a really decent book, full of interesting recipes and features on good British produce. No one was more surprised than me.
First of all, you’ll need to make the Rhubarb ketchup. This is supposed to mature for at least a month, but we used it within two days of making it, and it tasted fine. Perhaps a little sharp, it’ll definitely improve with age. But you don’t have to wait if you don’t want to.
(Makes about 300ml)
500g rhubarb cut into 2cm chunks and washed well.
50ml cold water
90g caster sugar
1 large pinch salt
125ml Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tbsp Arrowroot
4 Tbsp Cold Water
Place the rhubarb in a stainless steel pan. Add the 50ml water and cook over a gentle heat until you have a thick stew, about 10 mins. Liquidize then pass through a fine sieve.
Mix the arrowroot with the 4 Tbsp of cold water to make a paste, add this. Then add the caster sugar, salt and vinegar to the rhubarb and bring to the boil
Cook down gently until the sauce is thick, similar to double cream. It'll take about 20-25 mins
Straightway pour the ketchup into a sterilised jam jar or Kilner jar. Securely seal and place the jar into a saucepan with a tea-towel or cloth in the base to keep the glass off the bottom of the pan. Pour in enough warm water so that the jar is just covered.
Pop a thermometer in the pan and heat the water to 90C. Then turn down the heat and leave for 20mins bang on, making sure the temperature stays exactly the same. This will sterilise the ketchup.
Carefully remove the hot jar from the water and place on a wooden board or tea towel, as glass jars will sometimes crack if placed on metal or cold surfaces.
Cool then leave for at least a month to mature in a cool dark place (And for up to 3 months). Once opened, eat within a week.
The following recipe is for a more substantial portion than we served at the supper club.
Parsley & Red Onion Salad
1 Red Onion, very finely sliced
2 handfuls of Flat leaf Parsley, washed, dried and leaves picked
Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Maldon Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Optional dash of Sherry Vinegar or Red Wine Vinegar
To make the red onion and parsley salad, start by running the sliced onion under a tap, just to take a little of the rawness out of it. Dry it and toss with the parsley, the extra virgin olive oil, Lemon Juice. Taste and add the Vinegar if you think it needs it. Season.
Fried Mackerel rolled in Oats
4 fresh Mackerel – Filleted (2 fillets per person, pin boned, skin on)
Large Handful of medium porridge oats
Olive oil and butter for frying.
Press your mackerel fillets well into a plate filled with the oats, making sure both sides are well covered. Shake off any excess.
Heat oil and butter in a frying pan over a medium to high heat. Fry the mackerel fillets, skin side first for around 3 minutes (until the skin is golden and crispy). Flip over and cook for approximately 2-3 minutes until golden.
Place a handful of the parsley and red onion salad on the centre of the plate. Lay the mackerel fillets across the salad, skin side down. Serve with the rhubarb ketchup on the side.