Some month’s ago I removed the requirement for me to approve comments before they appeared and until now that had not resulted in a lot of spam comments. Sadly, over the past couple of days this has changed and, from the content, I suspect that it is originating in Romania or with a Romanian. I don’t think it a coincidence that it has happened after commenting on a Romanian blog – though I’m sure that blogger has nothing to do with it. Most of these spam comments were on past pages with content about Romania. It’s simple enough to remove it and that I have done, but it’s a pain. For some reason they have not been picked up by the usually excellent spam filter; the spammer seems to be ‘commenting’ from Facebook, which I hardly use. I hope it will stop. Va rog, sa va opriti!

Mackerel – don’t overcook

However, I have a pleasanter fishy thing to blog about – mackerel. Among the cheapest of fish it is also a favourite for me and, I think, at its best prepared very simply. Those who follow this blog will know that I like cooking classic French cuisine, often a very complex and long-winded preparation, but for mackerel simple is super. So I thought I would share the way I do it, our meal last night, with you.

Too big for our 10 inch dinner plates, this fish takes about 14 minutes to cook. Very important not to overcook.

Too big for our 10 inch dinner plates, this fish takes about 14 minutes to cook. Very important not to overcook.

I have mentioned before that I am fortunate in having very good fish close at hand – in Leeds Kirkgate market where Marks & Spencer was born. Of course they would be even better straight from the sea and every time I eat them I remember childhood holidays in the Yorkshire east coast resort of Bridlington, getting up very early in the morning to go out on a small boat, line fishing, and returning with the boat full of mackerel just as most other holiday-makers were getting up.

The fish we had last night were large – way too big for the 25cm (10inch) dinner plate you see in the picture. We’re gluttons so had one each, but the only accompaniment was some crusty wholemeal bread.

As with pretty well all fish the only difficulty is making sure you don’t overcook them. At the size shown they take about 7 minutes a side under a hot grill (on a good summer day I’d do them over charcoal outside but this is a bit more difficult as you need more than usual separation between the coals and the fish, otherwise the outside can be overcooked before the inside is done). The meat close to the backbone should only just be cooked, still very moist and juicy and slightly pink.

I prefer the head left on but it can be removed for the squeamish. Make deep slashes, but not cutting right through, on each side of the fish. This helps them cook evenly. Rub the fish with oil then squeeze ‘French mustard’ (I use the best – Dijon) in each slash. No other seasoning at all; if you like things salty this can be added while eating but personally I prefer them without. Then under (or over) the grill, turning half way through. That’s it!

Gravlax, Scottish smoked wild salmon, monkfish tails or turbot – all wonderful – but none of them beat the taste of this simply prepared mackerel for me.