Smoked mackerel pate must be at the top of my list of favourite things to spread on toast. Just imagine with me if you will, ….warm chunky toast, thickly spread with creamy, smokey pate, pure comfort. But don’t get me wrong, it’s so good for you as well; packed with Omega-3 oils (great for brain function and health) and the antioxidant selenium..which is said to help prevent heart disease.
It’s a shame to see that it has now turned up on the ever-growing list of overfished species, but as long as you buy from as sustainable a source as possible (fish caught locally using traditional methods, including handlines, ringnets and drift nets) there is less threat. According to Bertie Armstrong of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation UK stock is still well above ‘precautionary’ levels. It seems much of the problem revolves around Icelandic fisherman and those around the Faroes, who are catching over their quotas as Mackerel stock moves further North. An argument over fishing rights rages and until settled overfishing in Icelandic waters continues to impact on Mackerel reserves.
…and now I’ve put you all off buying mackerel I’m going to share my favourite recipe. There is as much debate about what makes the perfect mackerel pate and what you should add to it as there is what to do about controlling fishing!…. Should you add cream? What kind of cheese is best? Is butter a yes or no? What herbs work best? And then once you’ve chosen your ingredients there is the question of quantities.
I’ve made mackerel pate for years, tinkering on and off with a classic recipe made by my mum. I’ve tried adding different ingredients, varying quantities but I still come back to this one…I’ve made it for dinners, parties and weddings and it’s almost universally loved by all. My rules are….
*Don’t be stingy with the fish. Use plenty.
*DO NOT blitz it all to a pulp in the blender…hand flaking the fish is best, removing small bones by hand. If you must give it a quick pulse in the blender do it before you add the other ingredients and only pulse a couple of times, you want to keep a good texture…its not a dip.
*I use single cream as its slightly lighter.
*I also use sieved cottage cheese instead of cream cheese. Its less creamy and has a grainier texture which I like.
*Unlike many recipes I use butter. Unconventional maybe, but I like the rich artery clogging effect. It may seem perverse after I have used a lighter single cream and cottage cheese, but I love the decadence. For those wanting a lighter pate you could just leave it out.
*Like to add a teaspoon of fresh horseradish for a fiery hit as it marries well with the creamy smokiness, a good squeeze of lemon juice to cut through the creaminess and finally topped with a sprinkling of smoked paprika and a pinch of fresh dill.
Smoked mackerel pate:
150ml single cream
400g smoked mackerel fillets, skin removed and hand flaked
125g plain cottage cheese
100g melted butter
juice of a small lemon (3 good tablespoons full)
1 teaspoon fresh grated horseradish
Sprinkle with a little smoked paprika, a lemon wedge and a sprinkle of fresh dill.
Put the flaked mackerel in a large bowl and pick over it to remove any bones. Sieve the cottage cheese into the bowl then add the lemon juice, horseradish, cream and melted butter. Mix well checking the seasoning as you do. It may not need more salt but a good sprinkle of black pepper is essential.
Spoon the pate into individual dishes….or just serve a dollop with some salad. I do think it goes best with a wholemeal or spelt toast but its up to you, either way it is a such a simple recipe you have to give it a go!
Smoked mackerel pate with a seasonal salad of grated kohlrabi, cut-and-come-again leaves from Moelyci, cucumber and oak smoked tomatoes from the Isle of Wight, Tomato Stall and home made spelt toast