I remember it was a village-wide occurrence when the word got round that the mackerel “came in”. This was when the sprats would shoal around the shores and the mackerel, in search of an easy meal, would follow them. It meant that you could delve into the water and pull the fish out of the water with your bare hands. In fact I remember running down Coliemore road with my mum, wicker log basket in hand, to fish the whitebait straight from the water. We ate these little fish whole, after they were dredged in seasoned flour and shallow fried and sprinkled with chopped parsley and a dash of fresh lemon juice.
So back to the Mackerel, it’s a very oily fish. Much as Salmon and Tuna, must be served very fresh as the oil content in the flesh will turn. But the plus side of this means that it lends itself to a particular method of cooking that is one of my favourites, Hot Smoking.
Cold smoking is the method most of us are used to, where the smoke is cooled before it reaches the fish and the salts, sugars and smoke cure the fish. With hot smoking the fish is in the chamber where the wood dust is burnt, thus the fish is cooked with the heat but also flavoured with the smoke. You can also use this process to cook duck and chicken breast. You can buy them in most fishing shops or alternatively you can make one with these instructions
So the process takes only about 30 minutes and so what to do with the resultant fish. I ate one there and then, but what to do with the other eight? Well that’s the call of one of the easiest recipes in the world. And there’re a few cheats where you can substitute as few ingredients.
Smoked Mackerel Pate
Four large hot-smoked mackerels, filleted. (You can use the shop brought ones. Also Burren smokehouse and Frank Hederman do amazing products)
50g of butter
2 tablespoons of cream
1 teaspoon of grated horseradish or 1 tablespoon of horseradish sauce
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of chopped tarragon
De-skin and de-bone the mackerel. Put it and the rest of the ingredients into a blender. Blend until desired consistency is produced (I prefer mine smooth, she prefers hers a bit grainy).
And that’s it; I told you it was easy. Serve on freshly toasted bread.