Puy Lentil and Mackerel Salad
Updated: Oct 30, 2021
"The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found."
Calvin Trillin (1935 - )
Here's yet another one that caught my attention during my recent journey through the many pages that are contained within "The River Cottage Fish Book". But, with mackerel season firmly upon us, it tied up perfectly with my most recent post, a sharing of a recipe by Ollie Rowe, "Grilled Mackerel Fillet, Cucumber and Pickled Onions". Let me explain why...
In the book, it’s a suggestion of what to do with leftover mackerel but, as I’m sure many would agree, leftovers can often end up creating something superior to their original purpose, and that’s certainly the case here. I would happily intentionally grill or barbecue a few extra “leftover” mackerel so that I could make this dish. But indeed, in my previous post, I did grill some mackerel. Let me continue...
With the Puy lentils and the punchy contribution from anchovies, capers and red onion, I would just as happily “accidentally” make too much rare roast beef, pheasant or partridge (adding mustard to the dressing) with a view to having a salad like this to use up the “unanticipated” leftovers. So, with mackerel currently now being line-caught off the south coast and coming into both my local farmers’ markets I can see a few more occasions coming up where I’ll be looking forward to my “unintentional” leftover mackerel.
Much in the spirit of another recent post, "Crab Pasta Salad (Lunchbox)", this is an ideal lunchbox dish. But, as a dish for the table, it holds its own admirably and I can highly recommend that it take its place in a sharing spread with any of your favourite dishes that may perhaps come with Mediterranean vibes.
The stock vegetables and herbs are optional but they do make a difference. They lend a gentle aromatic sense to the lentils which are always keen to absorb flavours. It genuinely is the case that not every component need be included, nor do any at all. But an alternative to omitting them completely would be to just crumble some good quality vegetable stock cube into the water. It is to be recommended that salt not be added to the water in which the lentils are cooked as pulses are likely to develop a hard skin if cooked in salty water.
Because this dish is best served just warm or at room temperature, the lentils can be prepared well ahead of time and refrigerated (overnight) if necessary. But they should be brought back to room temperature and/or warmed gently, as should the mackerel be brought to room temperature, if the dish is to be served freshly prepared. Alternatively, if the dish if to be reserved for the next day, prepare as has just been described and refrigerate but, to enjoy it at its best, do bring it back to room temperature before eating.
Puy Lentil and Mackerel Salad
Ingredients (serves 2)
2 cooked mackerel, skin and bones removed and roughly flaked
100g Puy lentils
Stock vegetables and herbs, optional or just use what is to hand (see below)
½ red onion, finely sliced
2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
½ tbsp baby capers, rinsed, drained and chopped
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
Glug of extra virgin olive oil
Lemon juice, quantity to taste (approx. juice of ¼ lemon)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Stock vegetables and herbs:
1 celery stick, cut into 2-3 pieces
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 2-3 pieces
1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
1 small shallot, cut in half, or ¼ onion
1 fresh bay leaf, torn
A few parsley stalks (tied together with string to make them easier to remove)
Rinse the lentils in several changes of cold water then put them in a saucepan of cold water with your selection of stock vegetables and herbs (or crumbled stock cube) and bring to the boil. Simmer, uncovered, over a low to medium heat for about 15 mins, skimming as necessary, until the lentils are al dente. Remove the stock vegetables and herbs and drain.
In a bowl, combine the warm lentils, sliced red onion, chopped anchovies and capers and the flat leaf parsley. Fold in the flaked mackerel then drizzle in the olive oil and season to taste with the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Gently toss everything together and serve warm or at room temperature.
"The River Cottage Fish Book", Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher (2007), this edition 2011, pp. 400: https://www.amazon.co.uk/River-Cottage-Fish-Book/dp/1408814293
"Grilled Mackerel Fillet, Cucumber and Pickled Onions", Bute Street Seafoodie
"Crab Pasta Salad (Lunchbox)", Bute Street Seafoodie