Steamed Mackerel with Fennel
Recipes for mackerel normally involve grilling or pan-frying the fish, so it was a surprise to come across a recipe in which the mackerel is steamed, one I found in Gary Rhodes's book "keeping it simple" . Needless to say the result is a less intense flavour but, as I tend to think with vegetables, steaming is a great way to preserve the natural flavour of the ingredient, and that is the case here. Perfect then, when you can buy mackerel at the peak of freshness from the market stall. All that accompanies the mackerel here is the delicate, aniseedy flavour of fennel, some spring onion, a touch of lemon and a drizzle of walnut oil.
On the back of the book is a quote from Gary Rhodes: "In my opinion, the most delicious food is created when you get the very best ingredients you can find and do as little to them as possible". You won't find me disagreeing with that!
I have made few alterations to the original recipe, but one I have made is to use olive oil instead of butter. The walnut oil added at the end, for me, imparts a key flavour into the dish.
A single fillet with a small quantity of fennel makes for an elegant starter. As a light, summery main, 2 fillets served with the fennel and perhaps some boiled new potatoes dressed with dill would work perfectly. I therefore leave ingredient quantities loose, it really is a very simple recipe. Well done, Gary!
Steamed Mackerel with Fennel
Ingredients (for 1 mackerel)
1 mackerel, filleted (ideally with pin bones removed)
Fennel bulb(s) sliced as thinly as possible (ideally use a mandolin), approx. 1 fennel bulb
1-2 spring onions, thinly-sliced on the diagonal
Salt and ground pepper (white is to be recommended)
Caster sugar, a pinch
Fennel fronds (or dill) finely chopped, for garnish (optional)
Put the fennel slices and spring onion in a bowl and drizzle with a little lemon juice, some salt and the pinch of caster sugar. Leave to macerate for a few minutes.
Prepare the steamer and lightly grease a piece of kitchen foil with olive oil.
Season the mackerel fillets with salt and pepper and coat with a very thin layer of extra virgin olive oil. A tip I picked up from one of Gary Rhodes's TV programmes is to only season with salt on the skin side if a 'clean' presentation is aimed for.
Put a layer of the fennel and spring onion on the foil then place the mackerel fillets on top, skin-side-up. Curl the sides of the foil up so that the cooking juices are not lost.
Place in the steamer and leave to steam until the fish is just cooked. 3 minutes is a rough guide.
Remove the foil from the steamer and carefully put the mackerel fillets to one side on a plate. Transfer the fennel and spring onion with the cooking juices to a bowl and stir in the fennel fronds or dill (if using) and some walnut oil to taste (about 1 tbsp will be about right). Spoon the fennel and spring onion on to the serving plate and place the mackerel on top. Serve immediately.
"keeping it simple", Gary Rhodes (2005), pp. 65: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Keeping-Simple-Gary-Rhodes/dp/0718146212