I’ve been very remiss on the blogging front in the last few months, partly in response to a what has been a stressful time on the work front. When I’m too tired to cook interesting things, it doubles down on being too tired to blog: even if I had the energy to write, I couldn’t really make a blog post about my endless diet of rice and dal or beans and greens pasta. But I was given a bit of a nudge by hearing about readers out there who missed the blog. A couple of times people I know (or, indeed, am related to) mentioned that they hadn’t seen updates recently but on one occasion Lemur friend T told me her friends––whom I have never even met––said they’d missed the blog. It was kind of a boost to realise that I have an actual audience out there. I’m not kidding myself that anyone cares significantly about my updates, but still, even knowing that some complete strangers to me are enjoying the blog enough to miss it gave me the impetus to get back to cooking and writing about it. So thanks, readers, and welcome back!
Meanwhile, it is finally, finally summer here in the south of England. I honestly feel like we’ve waited three years for a solid week of warm weather and I am taking full advantage. (Example: I am writing now from a deckchair in my back garden.) So I was thinking about lighter summery fare when I saw a shiny pile of locally caught mackerel in the fishmonger’s display. I love mackerel – its stronger flavour and buttery texture can stand up to some punchy combinations and it’s also easy to cook. I’ve been thinking about Malaysian food a lot recently, and though this recipe isn’t at all Malaysian in overall conception, it uses some of the ingredients of the region to give a summery dish a tasty twist.
Pan-fried turmeric mackerel
- 4 fillets of mackerel
- 2 limes
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 3 large red Holland chilies
- 4 stalks lemongrass
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp palm sugar
- 1 large handful sugar snap peas
- 1 grapefruit
- 4 shallots
- 2 handfuls of peashoots
First you want to marinade the mackerel for an hour or so. Carefully run over the fillets, pulling out stray bones with tweezers. Then turn them over and cut a series of diagonal lines a little way into the flesh. Sprinkle generously with turmeric powder, add salt and then pour over the juice of one lime and massage the paste into the fish. You will now have turmeric under your fingernails forever so you might want to build in a little nail varnishing time.
While the fish is marinading, make the dressing. Chope the lemongrass and two of the chilies small. Pound the garlic in a mortar and pestle, then add lemongrass and chilies and pound all together. Add palm sugar and pound to a thick paste. Add fish sauce and lime juice, testing for flavour balance. The dressing should be thick but pourable.
To cook the fish, heat a non-stick skillet to medium, add a neutral oil, and fry the fillets skin side down for 5 minutes, then turn carefully and cook the other side for less than a minute.
While the fish is cooking, prep the salad, slice the shallots very thin, and chop the sugar snaps in diagonal slices. Cut the grapefruit into bite size segments and slice the remaining chili. Mix peashoots, shallots, snap peas, chilies and grapefruit and toss in the dressing. Top dressed salad with fish. Serve with rice or alone for a lighter version.