Mackerel; soused then scorched

Mackerel; soused then scorched

Pickled pears, elderflower poached rhubarb, shaved fennel and red chicory

During our supper club days, one of our standout techniques was soused

mackerel. This technique encompassed two unique talking points that we aimed to feature in each dish. Firstly, preservation — sousing is a method of cooking fresh fish in vinegar to extend its shelf life. Secondly, it showcased local history and heritage dishes. Many different cultures have developed their own ways of preserving fish with acidity, such as Peruvian escabeche or Scandinavian pickled herring. Sousing is the British take on this technique, with the first recipe published in 1846 in 'A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes' by Charles Elmé Francatelli, recent updates of the technique have been developed by the likes of Tom Kerridge and Nathan Outlaw.

The Fruits of the Forage heritage pickled pears really help to evoke a sense of humbler times while also elevating this dish into something unique and outstanding. The pears bring a sweet sharpness that pairs beautifully with the fatty mackerel, balancing the dish and offering a sensational individual experience.

The addition of elderflower-poached rhubarb provides a fantastic texture and an exciting tart and sweet sensation. The aroma of the elderflower lingers on the palate, complementing the trio of acidic elements each bringing bright and bold flavours.

Assisting all the flavours is the fresh salad, which incorporates the refreshing notes of fennel and the bitterness of chicory and grapefruit. The bitter notes revitalise the taste buds after experiencing the sharpness, leaving you craving another sweet and sour encounter.

 The freshness of the fish is always crucial, and with this dish, even more so. Make sure to visit the fishmonger on the day of preparation, if possible, and request the freshest mackerel available.

 Blowtorching the mackerel gives this dish a smoky characteristic and adds a touch of drama and class to its presentation. If you don't have a blowtorch, a similar result can be achieved by placing the fillets under a high grill. However, this may result in the mackerel being slightly hotter than preferred. The mackerel should be cooked enough to easily flake but not overcooked or mushy.

This dish consists of two stages, but each step of the preparation is relatively easy, and the final results are simple to assemble and spectacular to behold — well worth the time. These quantities will yield 2 portions for a light lunch or serve up to 4 people as a small fish course within a larger menu.

 Mackerel; soused then scorched

Pickled pears, elderflower poached rhubarb, shaved fennel and red chicory


 ¼ small red onion

4 fennel stalks ½ a jar Fruits of the Fora

ge Pickled Pears

70 ml cider vinegar

40 ml grapefruit juice (or other citrus)

2 fillets mackerel 140 ml Fruits of the Forage Elderflower and Grapef

ruit Cordial

100 g rhubarb

1 bulb fennel

1/2 a small red chicory (or similar bitter leaf eg radicchio or endive)

8 fennel fronds

Cold pressed rapeseed oil (or extra virgin olive oil)

 Soused Mackerel

  •  Finely slice the onions and fennel stalks then place into a container that will also comfortably fit the mackerel along with liquid to cover.
  • Strain the jar of pickled pears, reserving 4 pears and adding 70 ml of liquid to the container of onions and fennel.
  • Add the cider vinegar and grapefruit juice to the container.
  • Prepare the mackerel fillets removing pin bones and slicing each fillet into 4 pieces.
  • Place the mackerel into the container, check there is enough liquid to cover the mackerel, if not you can simply make an additional solution by whisking together 100 ml vinegar with 1/2 tsp sugar and small pinch salt and using as much as you require.
  • Place the container in the fridge for 24 hours.
  •  On day of serving remove the mackerel from the liquor 2 hours before serving and allow it to come to room temperature.

 Elderflower Rhubarb

 This can element can also be made ahead of time and chilled overnight.

Wash and prepare the rhubarb into small mouth sized pieces about 1 x 3 cm each, place into a heat resistant lidded container that will comfortably hold the rhubarb and liquid.

Pour the 140 ml elderflower cordial into a pan and bring to the boil.

Pour the hot cordial over the prepared rhubarb and cover immediately with the lid.

Allow the rhubarb to cool completely, this will leave the rhubarb sweetly flavoured and with an al dente texture. Place in the fridge for later use.

Fennel Salad

 Using a very sharp knife or a mandolin, shave the fennel into wafer thin slices (cut lengthwise so you get curls of fennel rather than semi circles), add fennel to a bowl and squeeze over the grapefruit juice, mix and leave to one side.

Finely slice the chicory into long thin pieces and place to one side

Prepare the fennel fronds by picking out the most perfectly formed pieces and placing to one side

Finally, slice the pickled pears in half through the centre don’t worry about the seeds or stalks as the seeds are edible and the stalks add height to the final dish.


Scorched Mackerel

 Remove the mackerel from the liquor and place onto an oven tray. Strain the onions and fennel from the liquor, discarding the liquor.

Using a culinary blow torch scorch the skin of the mackerel until well charred.

If you don’t have a culinary blowtorch you could also place the mackerel under a preheated grill.

 The Plate

 Scatter the plates with the fine slices of chicory.

Take a small handful of shaved fennel and shake away some of the excess grapefruit then scatter over the chicory.

Add some of the reserved red onions and fennel to the plate.

Add 5 pieces of rhubarb to each plate.

Followed by the mackerel.

Place the pear halves one resting on another cut side up. Finally garnish with fennel fronds and drizzle with cold pressed rapeseed oil to finish.