Seaside stuffed mackerel: fish with samphire is nothing new but mackerel with a samphire stuffing is a revelation. All credit to Tom Kerridge.
And there I was, cooking samphire to serve with fish for years, enjoying it thoroughly, but never once did it cross my mind to do something else with it – like to stuff it INSIDE the fish.
Great chefs' ideas
Let’s be honest: that’s the difference between a cook and a great chef. A great chef will take an ingredient and decide to handle it in a way different to what all the ordinary folk like me do.
I could mention the snail porridge or venison with chocolate, or Rene Redzepi’s vintage carrot that tastes like meat – but there are clearly a lot of simpler things that a creative chef can come up with.
Instead of just following recipes. Or throwing Parmesan on sprouts thinking I’m adventurous.
Tom Kerridge, whose recipe features below, from Best Ever Dishes cookbook, is clearly a masterful chef. I’ve been lucky enough to dine at his Hand and Flowers pub in Marlow, UK and I can atest it's fist class, and ingeniously prepared fodder.
As it's always booked up well in advance, I have to be content with cooking the dishes at home, as best I can. Just following the recipes, you know?
Can a different fish be used?
Mackerel works well because it's sturdy and oily, good for the grill. At a push you can use a sea bass or bream if your fishmonger will agree to fillet it so it still is in one piece. You can also use sardines filled with a small amount of stuffing.
Samphire and how to prepare it
Samphire looks like very skinny asparagus and contrary to popular belief is not a sea weed but a succulent that thrives in salt water environment. Also called Marsh samphires, helpfully clarifying where it likes to grow. It is enormously valuable nutritiously and versatile in the kitchen.
Apart from the recipe below, it has plenty of other culinary uses. It needs to be picked when bought as the thickest stalks tend to be woody, and any wilted stems must go as well. It should be rinsed thoroughly.
Preparing it in the simplest way means bringing to the boil for a second and draining. It's crisp, crunchy and very salty, a perfect accompaniment to fish.
But it can also be eaten raw. To get rid of some saltiness, soak it in cold water, changing it several times. A salad of fresh samphire with a dressing of lime juice, fish sauce and a little sugar can be the making of a really special meal.
Seaside stuffed mackerel
It's quite a showy dish so it might be fitting for a special dinner or a party, especially that it can happily be prepared ahead. Stuffed and tied mackerel will sit in the fridge for up to two days if they were spanking fresh to start with. And they will go nicely with new potatoes and green beans or sugar snaps.