Simple pleasures

Gooseberry with Mackerel, Chilli and Galangal


It’s been such a long time since I’ve eaten gooseberries. Perhaps since childhood, picked from the bushes in friends’ gardens. Maybe once in jam at Badger’s Tea House in Alfriston. A really toothsome Victoria sponge with elderflower buttercream.

We rely on supermarkets so much these days that it’s easy to miss short seasons, food we all knew. If you’re lucky enough to have a good farm shop (I have Franklin’s near me), market or grocers nearby you should be able to get gooseberries. And for that matter lots of other stuff the big shops can’t be bothered with.

This recipe is a semi-classic, (in fact, ‘groseille à maquereau’ is French for gooseberry) but I’ve added a hint of spice to it to give it a little zing. You don’t need a million ingredients to make a great meal, and as well as being incredibly quick to make, I’d be more than happy if I was served this in a restaurant.

Use the freshest mackerel you can get, and if gooseberries aren’t available, try rhubarb or grapefruit instead.

2 mackerel fillets
1/2tsp coconut oil
2 green chillies, sliced
1 thumb-sized piece of galangal
1tbsp raw honey
A handful of gooseberries (depending on your hand size, about 160g)
1/2tsp ground coriander
2 cloves
1tbsp double cream
Mustard cress
A drizzle of lemon oil

Add the coconut oil to a saucepan and put in the chillies and grate in the galangal. You could use ginger root if you don’t have any, but the flavour will be stronger.
Add a pinch of salt and the spices, then the gooseberries and honey. Stir well and cook on a medium heat until the berries begin to soften and collapse a little.
Stir in the cream and remove from the heat.

Heat a cast iron sauté pan, score the fish skin and season well. Put the fillets in skin side up. While they are cooking, use a blowtorch to cook the top of the fish, charring it well so it turns black and gold. If you don’t have a blowtorch, finish the fish under a hot grill.

Let the fish rest for a minute, then serve with the sauce, a few raw, sliced gooseberries, the cress and lemon oil. A crisp green salad with hazelnut oil dressing and some charred baguette slices finish this off perfectly.


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