William’s Restaurant Recipes for Student Chefs: Mackerel and Pickled Vegetables

Ever wanted to learn the craft of cooking restaurant dishes? This series will include simple recipes that are easy to cook in a student’s kitchen, while teaching you techniques that are worthy of working in a five star restaurant. Time and cost are also very important, so supper will be cheap and on the table within 30 minutes today!1 mackerel fillet – 1 carrot – 1 shallot – 1 cucumber – salt and pepper – white wine vinegar – sugar – olive oil – smoked paprika – orange zest – ciabatta.

This week’s recipe uses mackerel; a cheap fish with lots of healthy oils. It is a rich fish, so we’re going to prepare some pickled vegetables to provide acidity and make the fish easier to cut through; a technique that has been used for centuries before and is now experiencing a revival. To mop up the pickling liquor, we’re going to toast some ciabatta.

The trick to restaurant cooking is in the preparation, so we’ll start with the pickles.
Peel and roughly dice the carrot, and place it in a bowl with a roughly diced shallot and some peeled and julienned (small matchstick shaped) cucumber. Now place 100ml white wine vinegar, 50ml water, and 2 tablespoons of sugar into a pan and bring to the boil. When fully boiled, pour over the vegetables and stir thorourly. Leave to rest.

Now slice some ciabatta and toast lightly. Roughly chop a small handful of basil leaves. Prepare the mackerel by scoring the skin with a sharp knife at 1cm intervals and rub olive oil, salt, and pepper into it. To compliment the acidity of the pickles, a touch of heavily smoked paprika rubbed into the skin as well will add a deep smokiness. Smoked paprika is expensive but lasts for a long time and will work well in your next chilli!

Add a gulp of olive oil to a frying pan and heat it until it is hot; place the mackerel in the hot pan, skin side down. Mackerel cooks very quickly, so give it 2 minutes on the skin side and then flip it over for a minute’s cooking on the flesh side.

Now to present the dish. Place the grilled ciabatta on your plate and drizzle it with some olive oil.
Then plate the fillet of mackerel, covered with drained pickled vegetables. Mix the chopped basil with a splash of the pickling liquor and a spoonful of olive oil for a simple and delicious dressing. Season and spoon over the fish to serve. To finish it off, sprinkle some orange zest over the completed dish for a citrusy fragrance.

Image Credit: Will Briant

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