Season’s eatings

Sometimes there’s nothing more virtuous than having some lovely, fresh and, more importantly, seasonal food on your plate. It makes you very smug and self-satisfied, but not unfairly I don’t think. It’s good to eat relatively locally produced meals as much as possible as we’re all growing ever more conscious of both our own health and our own carbon footprint.

September is a great month for these things as we’re getting the glut of crops and the Harvesty temptations thrown at us from both supermarkets and, as much as possible, our own gardens. Every time I call home at the moment, the conversation starts with a run down of who’s eaten what and where it came from. Today, a lady came and picked up the quinces in return for a jar of quince jelly, [my] brother came round with some sweetcorn and [my] mother made some soup from the garden veg which was [by all accounts] delicious. Apparently, all she has to do is master stock and then all the ingredients for said soup would be home-grown. Very virtuous.

Here in Oxford, however, no such luck. With my postage stamp offering nothing more than a few green tomatoes, I have to stick with British seasonal produce, rather than home-grown. So, with that thought in mind, I decided that we’d up the ante and have some really lovely mackerel fillets for tea one evening.

Mackerel’s a fish that I’ve only just come round to investigating. The name is quite off-putting for some reason and I have no idea why. Either way, it’s local, sustainable and seasonal, so must be a good thing. Knowing that TOH prefer’s his fish whole and manageable (not hidden in some sauce or parcel) I thought I’d simply grill it and serve it as is. That’s the great thing about mackerel versus other white, British fish like cod or haddock, it can carry off a simple grilling. The others are quite flakey, quite fishy, whereas mackerel is a lot more delicate and a lot sweeter. It’s at its best with some butter and seasoning and doesn’t need a punchy sauce to lift it in any way.

I found this great recipe on (my staple) BBC Good Food for Spiced Mackerel on Toast with Beetroot Salsa which ticked most boxes on the ‘light and fresh’ dinner, while keeping the ingredients local and seasonal. Teaming the mackerel with apples and beetroots, both at their best in late September (and both in the home garden dammit!) seems sensible. Lifting the salsa was the coriander, lemon and cumin seeds which, on first bite, gave an exotic burst, but when thrown in with the fish allowed for lighter flavours than they sound. The fish was rubbed in curry powder which I actually couldn’t taste, so maybe more next time, but the idea was good and definitely worked with the salsa. It was a delicious dish which was perfect for a summery Indian Summer like we seem to be having.

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