You’ve probably come across slow-curing fish in recipes like that for gravadlax, where the process is drawn out over several days. However, a quick cure of salt and sugar can enhance the already delicate flavour of a fish such as mackerel. The salt and sugar draw moisture from the flesh, firming the texture as well as seasoning it. The cure is also the perfect vehicle for lightly spicing the fish – in this case with fennel and coriander.
This may seem a little cheffy, but if you can get really fresh mackerel, I urge you to give this a try. The inspiration for this dish was a snack we used to make when I worked at Fera at Claridges, and when developing this recipe, as in the restaurant, I skinned the mackerel before curing it. The result was a beautiful texture, but a very delicate flavour. Eaten with the rest of the salad, there was still something missing, so I decided to keep the skin on and use a blowtorch to crisp it – another chef’s technique.
By cooking the mackerel on just one side, with the extreme heat of a blowtorch you get crisp, smoky skin, which protects the delicate, cured flesh. I also used an old sushi-master’s trick of removing the clear membrane from the mackerel’s stripy skin. This is a bit like sinew, and tightens when cooked, forcing the fish to curl. When it’s removed, the fish keeps its shape, so the skin can caramelise evenly.
*This recipe is gluten-free according to industry standards