Thursday 6 October 2016


Rocket and Dandelion
In return for selling copious quantities of olive oil this week, payment has been made in the shape of fresh fish. If you work for fishermen, I suppose this reward was inevitable, but it was very welcome. They were waiting for me in the big fish fridge; four huge beautiful shiny mackerel. Before I cleaned and filleted them I admired their colours and brightness. Inspiration was needed as I wanted do something slightly different than the usual tasty oil, garlic, and hot grill combination.

The previous day I'd been out with Marija and her family. She had promised to take me to the fields to get what she described as 'grass' and I was puzzled. I was handed a knife and shown the plant that we were going to collect. Turns out that it was dandelion! We picked a bagful, and I was then handed the lot, as well as some wild rocket for a salad. She told me how to cook it and off I went with leaves that that my granddad used to curse. She said to clean and sort it, then wilt like spinach. I added garlic, oil, wine vinegar, salt and pepper and allowed to sit and cook for a little longer. I wondered how to use this rather acquired taste veg...
Pesto Mackerel Fishcakes

Delia had an idea which combined mackerel and pesto mash. I don't think that putting potato into fish and baking would work for me - far too much effort and perhaps a little bland. So I made a few changes using the basic idea.

  • Pat four of the fresh raw mackerel fillets dry and sprinkle a little salt on them
  • Put 3-4 medium potatoes onto boil and cook until soft. Allow them to dry a little over the residual heat and then mash as usual
  • Whilst they are boiling make a good antisocial pesto - one which makes even the garlic-immune fisherman here run scared. First of all, tussle with a small green caterpillar about whose basil it is...he won, as he wouldn't go down the plughole and waved at me pathetically when I threw him out of the patio door
  • Mine is a large handful of basil leaves, a really big glug of the excellent olive oil, a handful of toasted pine nuts, a couple of crushed garlic cloves, salt, pepper. Whizz up with whatever blender/mortar and pestle you have, then add some grated hard cheese. Add more oil to loosen if it's too 'tight'
  • Throw the lot into the mash and stir in thoroughly. At this stage I also added a rather interesting ingredient. I roughly chopped up a load of the cooked dandelion leaves and threw them into the mash
  • When the cooking oil in a frying pan is smoking hot, add the fillets, skin side down, and cook until just done. Allow to cool a little and then flake into the mash mix. Taste for seasoning and add paprika, or whatever to adjust
  • Add an egg and a little flour to bind. Then clean and re-oil the frying pan to heat again
  • With floury hands to prevent sticky mayhem, form into burger sized cakes and fry on each side until brown and crisp

East London Mackerel Cakes

Given that I'm going home in a week, and I enjoyed the previous day's cakes, I thought I'd try a curry flavour as I'm serious need.

Melting a butter/oil combo, I fried up a small onion, curry powder, cumin, chilli, some finely chopped red pepper, and popped in the final two raw mackerel fillets and sizzle thoroughly. Once it's all cooked and soft, I flaked the mackerel into the new batch of mash and scraped in everything from the pan. Add an egg and a little flour to bind, I chopped up more dandelion and stirred it all together. Cook as above, and add more tabasco for fun.

Serve both versions with a good dollop of hot ajvar.

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