mackerel with horseradish

last night, i nearly blew my head off with horseradish.

r and i concur halfway through that eating horseradish is actually really quite painful - but in a good way. r goes one step further in this foodie masochism and douses his fish in chilli sauce as well. (as i said, my cooking is wasted on him!) we eat every last scrap off the plate even though it feels like someone's set fire to our nostrils.

this dinner, though it looks poncey, was really an attempt to clear the fridge before going away this weekend. i like these exercises in thrift - i hate throwing food away and will go out of my way to rustle up something with moulding veg and wilting herbs.

this time, there are three tomatoes going soft in a fruit bowl on the window sill (one actually moulding, i have to cut off the bluish furry bit at the top), there is beetroot i roasted with garlic on sunday, and there is some creme fraiche that needs eating. also some swiss chard past its best.

the main ingredient is the slightly scary horseradish root that's been sitting in the fridge draw since saturday. they keep forever, though the browny skin gets mottled with mouldy patches. you just peel it off, grate and mix with about an equal amount of creme fraiche. i have tried to substitute creme fraiche but i think you can only really do it with sour cream - milk most definitely does not work, nor does trying to make normal cream more sour by adding lemon juice.

i think there are three essential ingredients to this dish - the rest is optional. those three are the horseradish mix, the roast tomatoes and the mackerel. you can either do the tomatoes by slow roasting them in a very low oven - this will dry them out and concentrate the flavour. you would have to put them, cut side up, in a roasting dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil (herbs are good, and i sometimes put the vine the tomatoes were on). roast in a 100C oven for a couple of hours. keep checking them so they're not totally drying out. or - if you haven't got time like i didn't, you can just chuck them in the oven for half an hour on high heat. i almost preferred the latter as the tomatoes were still quite watery, which worked for some reason.


for two

4 mackerel fillets
3 ripe medium tomatoes
horseradish root
3tbs creme fraiche
olive oil
handful of flat leaf parsley

first, prepare the tomatoes. wash, cut in two, place in a roasting tray skin side up, season and drizzle with olive oil. roast for half an hour in a hot oven, at 200C.

then, do the horseradish - finely grate about a 10cm piece from the thin end (less from thick, obviously) and mix with 2-3 tbs of creme fraiche. set aside.

season the mackerel fillets and fry in a thin film of olive oil in a hot pan for 2 mins, skin side down. don't move them or you'll risk breaking the skin. turn and fry for another minute or so, depending on how big your fillets are (ours were small). you will see the colour change from pink to pale brown.

for extra veg (there's always extra veg when you eat like this), i did some swiss chard - wash, thn chop the stalks and fry very gently in olive oil for about 10 minutes to soften, then add the chopped leaves and cook for another 3-4 minutes. i also had leftover roast beetroot - this was simply betroots cut in half (if they're large, leave them whole if they're baby ones) roasted in foil with a spoonful or two of both olive oil and balsamic vinegar, seasoning and some thyme, plus a few cloves of garlic, whole and in skins. roast on about 180C for an hour or so: stick a knife in one beetroot to check if it's ready. you can eat beetroot raw but cooked is definitely nicer in dishes like this.

to assemble, lay the chard (or whatever - you could just use lettuce) at the bottom of the plate, place the beetroot pieces (cut into half moons in my case) over it, then add a couple of tomoto pieces, a teaspoon of horseradish, top with mackerel, more tomatoes and a LOT more horseradish. finally, sprinkle with chopped parsley.


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