Thursday, 18 June 2009

Mackerel, just like when I was a kid in Barley Cove

Sunny hot summer days are finally here..
Somehow my appetite has gone haywire. With all the heat, the thoughts of eating anything hot during the day turns my stomach. These days I've been craving refreshingly cold Niçoise salads; Capreses with juicy, meaty tomatoes, drizzled in sunshine gold olive oil; tart, creamy potato salads with lashings of astringent plump capers.. So it goes without saying that at some stage I'd delve into the comfort foods of when I was child.

Today I started thinking about Mackerel.. A seriously under-rated fish in some countries - I don't think many people in Ireland have even tasted mackerel, let alone see a whole one, head and all. As a child I used to sit on the edge of a rock in Barley Cove while I'd watch my uncle Bobby trying his hand in enticing a shoal to his hook. Some days we'd be bathed in lovely afternoon sunshine, but mostly we'd be sitting there in raincoats until we got too cold and gave up.
He never gave up, rain, hail or shine.. Actually he was quite good at it (yet he could never understand my dad's patience to fish in boat in the middle of the lake), so there was many occasion that we would be faced with mackerel for tea, making the caravan smell for the whole weekend after..
Since then, it's kind of evolved for me, mackerel, learning different ways to cook it but I think deep-down i still prefer it the old way - straight off the pan with lashings of butter and black pepper..
E tends to prefer it Catalan style - escabetx or poached slightly/marinated in vinegar and oil. Wasn't too keen on it as first as vinegar was a big no-no for me, but over the years that I've been here (6 already), it's slowly growing on me.
It's rather simple to prepare: 1 part wine vinegar, 2 parts olive oil and some water to cover, a bay leaf and some black peppercorns. Place the gutted and de-headed mackerel in the liquid and bring to the boil. When it starts to boil, remove from the heat and leave to cool in the liquid. Once cold, transfer to a small casserole dish and cover completely with virgen olive oil. Not only does the oil 'soften' the taste of vinegar and mellow the flavour of the fish. E prefers to leave out the oil -just using vinegar and water, but it makes it too vinegary for my liking.
The great thing is it keeps really well in the fridge (or on the countertop if you don't live in hot Spain -it's currently 29º) for a few days. Mmm.. My mouth already starts to water as if it were a bag of salt and vinegar crisps..

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