What the F##k happened in 2020? We have not even reached the end of March and Brexit happened. Marlini was made redundant. Bathroom had to be largely rebuilt due to a leaking gasket. I broke a bone. Am three weeks into Laryngitis with every cure thrown at it proving largely futile (though the odd spoonful on manuka honey is pleasant). But whatever crap has hit my fan pales into insignificance compared to the Coronavirus pandemic.
I have nothing but admiration for the health services and key workers around the world to try and make good during these impossibly difficult times. And for the likes of Trump – you are so moronic and stupid, you threatened to sue your former school if they revealed your academic grades. Why? Are you so overcome by humility that you released your Einstein-esque intellect (dubbed only by you as stable genius) was just not the gentleman thing to do? No, it is because you are an idiot. A liar. A cheat. A tax-evading fraud. And… this is the point I am making… not a global expert on everything. In particular, a world authority on Virology. Go do what you do best – play golf (and cheat), chomp on insipid cheeseburgers (and brag about your exceptional health and physique – as the camera obviously lies), and let experts and specialists get on with containing this pandemic and helping find a cure for the hundreds of thousands affected today. Your obsession with sharing your input through Twitter or bullshit press conferences helps no one. That is not Fake News.
Closer to home, I am so immensely sad to see, in real-time, the effect of putting measures in place to contain Covid-19. The mass closures of restaurants, pubs, and shops – is simply depressing – not just for consumers, but those in the service industry – many on zero hours contracts trying to anticipate the ‘what next?‘. I count myself lucky in two respects – I am very well seasoned to home-working and have both the discipline and internal filter from all distractions to get on with the day job, and love working from my man cave. Whilst I miss seeing my colleagues 1-2 days a week in London… we are always connected. Microsoft Teams and Office 365 is simply amazing and keeps evolving. My immediate challenge with our current predicament is … grocery shopping. What the hell!! Absolutely, priority has to be given to key workers and the elderly but every days seems to be shopping madness I have only seen during Black Friday. Seriously though…. Toilet paper? Pasta? Paracetamol? Hand Sanitizer? Yeast? Panic buying and hoarding is so selfish and irresponsible.
As finding an online delivery slot seems rarer than finding hen’s teeth, I turned to what I find very contradictory when trying to actively practise social distancing – having to go in store. Even a week ago, shelves were stripped bare. The only saving grace was seeing that one of the less popular products still available (and one of my favourites) is smoked mackerel. As long as I can, I will always keep stock of lemons, plain yoghurt and spring onions – everything else last well in the fridge. As the plan to celebrate our wedding anniversary backfired (and I cannot reiterate how sorry I am for all those in the hospitality industry), I wanted us to have a nice and easy brunch and this is what we came up with.
Smoked Mackerel Rillettes with Aleppo Pepper Recipe
We have always been fans of what I consider to be one of the most underrated fish – mackerel. Not only is it really good value (for now) it is really versatile – more so in its smoked form and easily found in the chiller cabinet in most supermarkets. It also freezes really well. Whilst smoked mackerel paté is both easy to find (and make), I really wanted the fish itself to be the key to this dish – both in terms of flavour, but also texture. Why add butter and creme fraiche to an already rich ingredient when a minimal quantity of plain yoghurt works really well to help bind this together? And how can I not use the opportunity to pep this up a bit with my much exploited stash of Aleppo pepper to provide some subtle heat and flavour?
The food puritans out there may well correctly single me out for calling this a Rillettes – more traditionally associated with preserved and shredded pork or duck covered in fat – but I was at a loss at finding another term. What I really think makes this work are the course flakes of oily mackerel flesh to chomp into. This is definitely not a smooth paté.
Finally, if you can find it, serve on warm lightly toasted sourdough bread. My absolute favourite is from Wapping Sourdough based in London and right now I am am missing the weekly loaf I bring back from London to Yorkshire. I cannot recommend strongly enough and wish the family run business all the best during these very challenging times…
Smoked Mackerel Rillettes with Aleppo Pepper
- 2 fillets smoked mackerel, skin removed, and flesh coarsely torn
- 2 tbsp natural plain yoghurt
- zest 1 unwaxed lemon
- juice of half lemon
- 1 tbsp non-pareil capers, finely chopped
- 1 tsp heaped fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 2 large trimmed spring onions, spliced down the centre and finely sliced
- 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
- Pinch freshly ground black pepper
- Add two tablespoons of plain natural yogurt to a small mixing bowl.
- Finely slice two spring onions, chop the capers, zest the lemon and add to the yoghurt.
- Sprinkle the Aleppo pepper and mix everthing together thoroughly using a fork.
- Carefully peel back and remove the skin of the mackerel and coarsely break up the flesh using your fingers and add to the bowl.
- Add freshly ground black pepper, finely chopped parsley, and add a squeeze of lemon juice to taste.
- Mix through and serve on warm toast.