There’s everything to like about this dish. Thin slivers of just-cooked beetroot doused in a simple red wine vinegar dressing, crisp apple, fresh pan fried mackerel and finished with some nutty, leafy and tangy adornments. It’s a simple recipe for success that I can’t believe has sat in my recipe notes, remaining unpublished for so long.
I wrote this recipe in the summer of 2014 and was instantly taken with it. It was made few times and photographed on two occasions, but the photos never lived up to my vision of flavours within the dish. You see, it’s one of those meals that tastes so good, and looks so stunning on the plate that it’s hard to take a photo that truly represents it. So I came back to it again, and it was like greeting an old friend after a long break. I was a few breaths away from eating the entire plate before taking the photos, I just wanted to pile my fork high and gorge. Sod the photos, I could do them another time.
By a slight of luck, I managed to grapple the camera into a few positions that allowed some photographs to be created. If I’m totally honest, I’m still not completely happy with them, but there is one thing that I am happy with and that’s the recipe for the plate of food that’s in those shots. It’s a definite win for when you’ve got guests over, it’s make-aheadability means it’s superbly suited to entertaining. You can get this meal 90% ready well in advance and just put it all together at the last minute. If you want to do that, there’s a couple of notes about preparation at the bottom of the recipe.
If you can regard these poor, dull, lifeless and inadequate photos, yet still feel they promote even the merest hint of interest in your mind or slightest rumble of the belly, then this recipe is definitely one for you, and I promise that you’re in for a real treat. Enjoy.
Pan fried mackerel with beetroot and apple salad
By Gavin Wren
Uses a frying pan and a saucepan
3 medium raw beetroot, about 300g
1.5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large mackerel fillets
50g crushed hazelnuts
A couple of handfuls of lambs lettuce or rocket
For the yoghurt:
150g plain yoghurt
1 tablespoon horseradish sauce
1/2 lemon, zest and juice
Mix all of the yogurt ingredients together.
Core, halve and slice the apple.
Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat for a few minutes. Add a couple of glugs of olive oil to the pan, then add the mackerel fillets, skin side down, one at a time. As you lay each one in the pan, hold it down flat, as it will try to curl up. After about 10-15 seconds you should be able to release it and it will stay flat. Cook for about 3 minutes on the skin side, then turn over and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side.
To compose each plate, make a layer of beetroot first and spoon a little bit of the beetroot dressing juices over the top. Then add a layer of apple slices. Place the mackerel fillet, skin side up on top. Finally, place a small handful of leaves on top, then scatter the nuts across it all and drip the yoghurt sauce all over the plate. Serve with the remaining yoghurt sauce on the table for people to add when required.