Mackerel with ginger, chilli and cumin

Not quite the dish I set out to make:  I went to the fridge to see how well the rosemary was faring and instead grabbed the root of ginger jammed in beside it.

I’d started out thinking mackerel-tomatoes-chilli-paprika-sherry vinegar, a kind of hot soused flavour mingled with one of my favourite mackerel-onion-paprika combinations.  But the ginger pushed it in a different direction.  The final ingredients list was thus:

2 (half a packet) hot smoked mackerel fillets
One onion, sliced
One stick of celery, diced
One jalapeno chilli (cos that was lying around, any old fresh or dried chilli would do), chopped
One clove of garlic, chopped
Half a tablespoon of sherry vinegar
Fresh ginger, grated.  About a cm-worth of the root I had
Half a 400g carton of tomatoes
Teaspoon of sugar
Sprinkling of ground cumin

First, I put some brown rice on to cook, knowing that it takes a good 25 minutes, which should give me plenty time to make a sauce and warm the mackerel.

To start the sauce, I fried the onion til it was good and brown, then added the celery, garlic and chilli and fried that for another few minutes.  The sherry vinegar went in next, followed by the gratings of ginger until it smelled good.  That was all stirred around a bit, and was joined by the tomatoes, sugar and seasoning.  It needed something else though to round the flavour out, and sprinkle (maybe a quarter teaspoon) of ground cumin was it.  The sauce was still sharp, with a kick from both the sherry vinegar and the chilli, but then warmth from the ginger and cumin.

I left that to cook for about 5 minutes while I realised the brown rice was running low on water, so once I’d sorted that out, I peeled the skin off the mackerel and slid them in to the sauce to warm through while the rice finished cooking.

It took about another 10 minutes for the rice to cook, and by that time the sauce had reduced to quite a thick little number.  I drained the rice, and while it dripped dry, I tossed a handful of spinach and a small handful of frozen peas with a splash of water into the rice pan, and turned the heat up to quickly cook the peas and wilt the spinach.  While they finished cooking, I popped the rice, the mackerel and some sauce on the plate, chucked the greens alongside, and that was it.

And when I’d eaten the fish, I went back and had the last spoonful of tomato sauce too….

I think mackerel goes really well with sharp flavours, and this sauce worked pretty well.  Next time I might reduce the amount of vinegar slightly as it was only just the right side of sour or go for a slightly sweeter one, maybe balsamic.  I think it’d also work with fresh mackerel, marinading the fish in the vinegar, chilli, garlic and then flavouring the tomato sauce with just ginger and cumin.

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