Easy to prepare and no nasties
Smoked mackerel pâté is a bit of a classic and a common sight on menus and supermarket shelves. I'm a bit fussy about buying any kind of pâté that's been ultra processed and full of God knows what, so apart from buying from a few trustworthy producers when time is tight, I prefer to make my own. That applies whether it's chicken, duck, pork, fish or even mushrooms. The only processing that goes on for this dish is in the smokehouse and in the magimix!
Smoked mackerel is good value and very healthy, with oil-rich fish such as mackerel (Scomber scombrus) being high in omega-3, great for the heart and the brain. The mackerel is already cooked so you don't need to worry about cooking it first; all the ingredients can be taken from the fridge and storecupboard and whizzed together in a couple of minutes.
I used some plain hot smoked mackerel fillets from Arbroath Fisheries. They are based in Arbroath on the East Coast of Scotland, an area famous for it's tradition of smoked fish and where the renowned Arbroath Smokie originated (Scottish Regional Recipes by Catherine Brown, Molendinar Press 1981 pg.30). I'm planning some posts on the Smokie in the near future but Arbroath Fisheries smoke haddock and other fish including mackerel in the traditional way. Two mackerel (4 fillets) cost £4.50 at about £1.50/100g from their stall at Edinburgh Farmers' Market (Saturdays 8am-2pm, see website for stallholder info).
These artisan versions have a more intense, woody taste and aroma than the average supermarket mackerel but once blitzed with the other ingredients the flavour isn't overpowering, rather it compliments the sum of its parts. In Alan Davidson's North Atlantic Seafood (Penguin Books 1980, pg 127) he cautions, "remember, however, that mackerel is rich. Do not eat too much of it." While I'm happy to eat more than Davidson suggests, it's robust flavour means that a little can go a long way.
Wherever you buy them, smoked fillets usually come either plain, peppered or with chilli or similar additions. I prefer to use the plain type for pâté and then use other seasonings to spice it up to taste, keeping the peppered version for eating whole in salads or for weekend breakfasts, slightly warmed through in the oven and served with lots of scrambled eggs and toast.
- 2 plain smoked mackerel fillets
- scant 3 tbsp full fat creme fraiche
- juice of half a lemon
- good pinch cayenne pepper
- small handful parsley (flat or curly)
- freshly ground black pepper, to season
- 1-2 tsp capers, rinsed
- grated beetroot
- bread or oatcakes
- lemon wedges
- Flake the fish away from the skin. Put three quarters of it into a food processor fitted with the large bowl and normal blade, reserving the rest.
- Add the rest of the ingredients apart from the black pepper. Process briefly with the pulse button, then check and add more lemon juice, cayenne or black pepper to taste.
- Fold the rest of the flakes fish into the pâté (I find this gives a more rustic texture, not too smooth)
- Scoop into a serving bowl and top with the capers, serve on a platter with the rest of the accompaniments.