Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Smoked Mackerel Paté

Along with prawn cocktail (served dolloped with Marie Rose sauce in an upturned avocado half, naturally) and black forest gateau, smoked mackerel paté is one of those foods that always seemed to retain a whiff of Abigail's Party. As a child of the 80s who genuinely thinks that cheese and pineapple on sticks should make a comeback, this doesn't bother me at all, and there are signs that smoked mackerel paté may be on its way back to the limelight. My hero Jamie Oliver has already included a recipe in his latest book, "30 Minute Meals", as part of an English picnic lunch alongside griddled asparagus and proper sausage rolls. Given that the weather has returned to more customary English warmth for the time of year (aka bloody freezing), the picnic may be a few weeks off but the paté is worth giving a whirl even before the sun gets his hat on again.

This recipe gives with one hand and takes with the other. In the pro corner, it's insanely healthy (fish oils! cottage cheese! no carbs! lots of low-fat protein!). It's also cheap, really quick and easy and makes a surprisingly filling packed lunch. Take this into work with a few vegetable crudites and a bit of salad and you've got pretty much the healthiest meal you can imagine, plus a smug glow of virtue which means you can have pudding AND cheese at dinner later.

The downside? It's not a very sociable dish. The flavour is intense - in a good way - and fishy and oniony. Let's put it delicately, you should not eat this if you've got a romantic dinner or a job interview and you've run out of mints. Plus, as you can see, it's not particularly pretty. With those caveats in place, I do love this and make it all the time. For a smoother pate, you could swap the cottage cheese for cream cheese, but I prefer it slightly rougher in texture. 

Carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, celery, baby gem leaves, radishes are all great to dip, or Ryvita if you want a dose of smug, diet-conscious showoffiness. If you're not subject to the tyranny of the lunchbox, hot toast would be the classic and delicious accompaniment. Or a chunky baguette, a picnic rug and SUMMER. 

Smoked mackerel pate
Adapted from Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals 
Serves 4 for a starter, or one person for two big but virtuous lunches

- 2 smoked mackerel fillets. I remove the skin but Jamie doesn't bother.
- 150g cottage cheese
- zest and juice of half a lemon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of creamed horseradish
- salt and pepper
- a spring onion
- a few sprigs of fresh parsley

Whiz up your spring onion until finely chopped, then add everything else and whiz to combine. Taste, adjust, tupperware, done. 

I like to scatter a few capers over the top but go for some parsley if you want it to look pretty but aren't obsessed with pickles.

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