Smoked Mackerel, Beetroot and Horseradish
Updated: Apr 26, 2021
"I buy smoked mackerel in a vain attempt at being healthy. I do actually really like it, and you don't have to cook it, which is handy."
Jo Brand (2001)
To claim this is a recipe would be just being silly. It is merely, and if nothing else, a celebration of some homegrown good stuff - artisan smoked fish, winter veg and a salad leaf that is very much under the commercial radar: land cress. Yes of course I’ve done nothing more than assemble a posse of very well-acquainted plate-mates and dressed them in their favourite coat but it’s always a delight to get creative with what our local producers are bringing to the market and this didn’t take too much imagination.
Land cress is not something I’ve ever seen in a supermarket but have come across in various farmers’ markets over the years. It’s as peppery as watercress (fresh stuff only!) but somewhat more delicate in structure. I bought this crop from Wild Country Organics at South Kensington Farmers' Market. Teamed up with smoked mackerel from Yorwarth's Fresh Fish and beetroot from the ever-reliable Ted's Veg, this is a simple, satisfying and healthy light meal.
One of the advantages of using a product such as land cress is that, being only available in a farmers' market (or perhaps a veg box scheme) or direct from the producer, it always tastes amazing and just how it should. That's not to say that watercress bought direct from source is any different - it's just that it's all too easy to be disappointed by delicate leaves like these that have gone through a lengthy commercial packaging, storage and distribution process that they reach you in a, frankly, poor state - somehow the pepperiness becomes soapiness.
At a time when "Storm Darcy" is frustrating our fisherfolk's efforts to get to sea, this is a winter salad that exemplifies why preserved fish was ever thought of in the first place, and is very satisfying to boot!
I normally bake rather than boil my beets, but I was rather tempted to roast them and may well do so on another occasion. When I bake beetroots I simply give them a scrub, sprinkle them with salt and wrap a few at a time in a foil parcel (large ones being halved or quartered) and bake them for something like 40 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size. Once cool they are easy to peel and use as desired. They're absolutely delicious as a salady side dish cubed and dressed in a touch of sherry vinegar with a little salt and ground white pepper.
The horseradish dressing here can be made according to taste. The ingredient quantities are quite a good guide but the end result will depend on the make-up of the horseradish sauce you use. While the lemon juice is there to add a touch of sourness, it also serves to loosen the creaminess of the dressing but if it looks and tastes like it is getting too sharp a little milk and/or water can be used to achieve a dressing consistency that appeals. Using white instead of black pepper in the dressing is not essential but when I am making sauces or dressings for which I want to preserve an unblemished pale colour it is just my preference.
Smoked Mackerel, Beetroot and Horseradish
Ingredients (Serves 2)
2 smoked mackerel fillets, skin removed, flesh flaked into bite-sized chunks
2 handfuls of cooked, cubed beetroot (see recipe intro)
4 handfuls of land cress if available, or watercress if not
Salt and freshly ground black (or white) pepper
For the horseradish dressing:
1 tbsp horseradish sauce
2 tbsp single cream
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt and ground white pepper
Make the dressing first, even a few hours ahead. Simply combine the horseradish sauce and cream, then stir in enough lemon juice to loosen and if 1 tsp is not enough check the taste for sharpness and either add a little more or use milk or water instead to achieve a pouring consistency. Season to taste.
Divide the land cress or watercress across two serving plates, then arrange the smoked mackerel chunks and beetroot cubes decoratively on top. Finally drizzle the dressing over, give a final seasoning of salt and ground black (or white) pepper to taste and serve.
Wild Country Organics, website accessed 18 February 2021
Yorwarth's Fresh Fish, website accessed 18 February 2021
Ted's Veg, website accessed 18 February 2021