Mackerel with pickled cucumber and horseradish

I never thought I’d say this but I need a break from comfort food. After the rainy long weekend when I hibernated in my flat I couldn’t take it any longer. I spent the weekend reading, perusing cookbooks and eating way too much.

There are so many great recipes in the June ‘British issue’ of Gourmet Traveller. Sometimes though, you have to be sensible. You can’t cook a family size pork pie for one and be eating it all week (as much as I kinda wanted to).

There were the Eccles cakes, my favourite and a much loved St John treat, scotch eggs and apple pies. The article on Brett Graham though really caught my interest. An Australian who has made his home and his name in London at The Ledbury and The Harwood Arms. I was surprised they included the recipes for Harwood favourites, those scotch eggs and that soda bread!

I’ve tasted (in large quantities) the bread and tried to attain the recipe, now I have it! Although I haven’t had the scotch egg. I copped a bit of flack for that and I hope to rectify that, now the famous recipe has been revealed.

In the mean time this mackerel is just what I need to bring me out of a winter stodge slump. It has been slightly adapted from the Gourmet Traveller.

Mackerel with pickled cucumber and horseradish

Ingredients

1 fresh as they come, mackerel

1 small thumb size piece of fresh horseradish

1/2 cup loosly packed mixed parsley leaves and dill fronds.

Pickled Cucumber

1 lebanese cucumbers, sliced finely (ideally with a mandolin)

100mls apple juice

100mls water

20mls white wine vinager

1/4 nori sheet folded into a small rectangle and finely sliced

1/2 cup lightly packed parsley leaves

1 pinch of sea salt

Method

Combine all the pickling ingredients, except the cucumbers, in a food processor and blend well. Pour liquid over a sieve and into a plastic bowl. Discard the bright parsley and nori left (shame). Add the cucumbers to the pickling liquid and leave to steep in the liquid for a few hours (2-3).

Fillet your mackerel (or have the fishmonger do it, but it’s not as fun). Lightly season with salt and olive oil, place skin side down in a hot pan. Hold the mackerel down lightly for a 30 seconds to make sure all the skin is in contact with the pan. Leave the fillets in the pan (don’t be tempted to turn them) for about 3 minutes. Then flip over and cook on the other side for a minute.

Drain cucumbers from the pickling juice. Arrange on plate, place mackerel on, crispy skin side up, add herb leaves and finely grate horseradish over. Be warmly generous with the horseradish.

Serves 2

The Ledbury

I have been waiting to set foot in The Ledbury for years, distracted by this and that, how could I have let it pass me by for so long?  Shame, shame on you Ms Macaroon.

Dinner with a group of Australian bloggers could be at no other place. The chef, Brett Graham, fellow Australian, had this year received his second Michelin star, definitely time I got myself there. Ms Gourmet Chick, Greedy Diva, Catty, and I were joined by Claire Scott from D’Arenburg wines. Over numerous emails we had arranged for Brett to create a menu, just for us and specially selected wines from D’Arenburg and Katnook. Unfortunately Jo Jericho, from Katnook wines,  couldn’t make it, due to her impending departure back to Australia but, she still managed to dropped off some wine for us earlier in the day.

Posh jewellery on, a silky black number and my new Rupert Sanderson heels and I was off…..this was going to be good.

On such an occasion a glass of Champagne was essential. Brett had been off shooting game that day so he was not in the kitchen but that didn’t stop the flow of great food coming out of the tiny kitchen. The canapè was a tartlet of foie gras with hazelnut crumbs and shiso leaves, a mouthful of soft melting buttery foie gras with textures of crispness in the delicate tartlet and ground hazelnuts.

The decor of the place is a bit dated with large wood panel columns and inset flower arrangements. Although I hadn’t even noticed until half way through the meal as I was so focused on the food.

Soon after our amuse bouche arrived. Quail egg encased in kataifi pastry chestnut puree and shaved truffles. This was definitely a starter to get your taste buds going. The textures and flavours worked so well, melting in your mouth.

Hampshire Buffalo Milk Curd with Saint-Nectaire, Truffle Toast and a broth of Grilled Onions. I don’t think I could choose a favourite from our menu, but if I had to this would win the interesting dish award. As you are mesmerized by the thick truffle toast the waiters pour the sweet grilled onion both over the dish. It’s not until you plunge your spoon into it that you discover the set buffalo milk curd at the bottom of the plate. It was divinely smooth, and the truffle toast….needs no explanation.

We were now getting into some more serious wines. A 2005 Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra was paired with our next course, Root Vegatables Baked in Salt and Clay with Lardo Di Colonatta, Roasting juices and Hazelnuts. Like a city of towers, the sweet colourful roast vegetables stood beautifully together. Yes the turned jerusleum artichoke looked like a witchetty grub, coincidence or not, but cute.

Roast Cod with Truffle puree, Cauliflower, Parmesan Gnocchi and Sea Vegetables. Beautifully flakey cod with a perfectly formed dense parmesan gnocchi and, again, a form of black truffles. I just love truffle season!!

We still had another dish to come! I was starting to feel rather full by then. Our next course of Loin of Roe Deer Baked in Douglas Fir with Beetroot, Bone Marrow and Malt was accompanied by a reminder of how big Aussie Reds can taste, 2002 d’Arenburg “The Dead Arm” Shiraz, McLaren Vale. This wine brought back such good memories of what a good Australian Shiraz tastes like. Big, bold flavours which have been somewhat tamed over time in a bottle. The venison was so juicy and tender draped with silky mushrooms. The whole dish really worked so well together.

Still sipping on my “The Dead Arm” shiraz, along came our pre-dessert. A passionfruit mousse with a creamy Sauternes froth, was actually better than my dessert. Catty will disagree but I prefer light fruity desserts. It was engulfed in no time.

Dessert was Brown Sugar Tart with Muscat Grapes and Stem Ginger Ice-cream. The tart was beautifully smooth with a rich caramel flavour. The stem ginger ice cream was divinely smooth. I love ginger and I thought it worked well to cut through the richness of the sweet tart along with the grapes.

It didn’t end there of course. Petit Fours were presented to you to choose from on a bed of shaved chocolate. The violet meringues were soft and creamy. I couldn’t fit anymore food in by that point, so I didn’t try the other petit fours on offer, but they look gorgeous.

A pot of mint tea and I was then rolled into a taxi home. The Ledbury was indeed one of the best meals I have ever had in London. Brett Graham deserves all the praise and attention he has been receiving lately. I wish I could come back again and again and again and again.