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Perfect match: pickled mackerel with bitter ale

You'll need

8 mackerel fillets (about 150gm each), pin-boned 500 ml (2 cups) white wine vinegar, or enough to cover 2 golden shallots, coarsely chopped 2 garlic cloves, crushed 1 fresh bay leaf 5 black peppercorns 1 litre (4 cups) olive oil, or enough to cover   Dutch cream potato and cress salad 1.5 kg Dutch cream potatoes (about 10), scrubbed 60 gm (¼ cup) mayonnaise 1½ tbsp salted capers, rinsed and drained 4 golden shallots, finely chopped ½ cup (firmly packed) flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped ¼ cup finely chopped chives 1 punnet mustard cress, trimmed


  • 01
  • Place mackerel in a non-reactive container large enough to fit fish snugly. Season to taste, cover with vinegar. Cover and refrigerate until cured (4-6 hours).
  • 02
  • Drain mackerel (discard vinegar), pat dry with absorbent paper, place in a non-reactive airtight container, scatter with shallot, garlic, bay leaf and pepper, cover with oil and refrigerate to marinate overnight.
  • 03
  • For Dutch cream potato and cress salad, place potato in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil over medium heat, cook until tender (25-35 minutes). Drain and, when cool enough to handle, peel and cut into 3cm pieces. Set aside to cool completely, then combine with mayonnaise, capers, shallot and herbs, season to taste and serve with pickled mackerel.

Note You'll need to begin this recipe a day ahead.

Ah, pickled fish. One of the few real danger zones when it comes to matching grub and grog. Most of the time, let's face it, you can happily eat almost anything with anything and not get into too much strife: there are hardly any combinations of food and wine that are disastrous enough to make you gag or screw up your face in disgust. But pickled fish, especially pickled oily fish, is one of them. Try this mackerel with, say, a nice, eager-to-please chardonnay, and the vinegar in the pickle - aided and abetted by the fishy oils - will make the wine taste like battery acid. No, what you need with this thoroughly northern European-inspired dish is a pint of that thoroughly northern European liquid staple, beer. And I'd be inclined to veer towards a traditional English style of beer - what the Poms call "bitter" (for rather obvious reasons). The moderate, even mild levels of alcohol in a good bitter give it a rounded, potato-friendly, pleasing body, but the bitterness on the finish is just what you need to cut through the creaminess of the mayo and the oiliness of the fish. And the vinegar won't clash with the beer in the same way it will with wine - indeed, sometimes I think vinegar and beer were meant to be together (I'm thinking pickled onions, salt and vinegar crisps, fish and chips on the beach…).

At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people

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