Fish and white wine. A bit of a no-brainer really. Especially in the middle of summer. They go together as perfectly as slip, slop and slap, or beer and beach cricket. But for a dish like this, with its extra layer of smoky flavour, its crunchy-cold bite of fennel and apple and its little spirituous bombs of sweetness in the Marsala-soaked currants, you probably don't want a white that's too light or too crisp and dry; a cheeky young unwooded Hunter semillon, for example, normally such a good fish wine, could taste thin and tart up against the charry and sweet elements of the dish. I've plumped instead for a viognier: a white wine with lots of perfume and rich texture in the mouth, often augmented by fermentation and maturation in barrel. As regular readers will know, at this point I normally recommend wines from three different producers, but this month I'm suggesting you check out wines from just one winemaker. Yalumba has been making viognier for longer than almost anyone in Australia, and has totally nailed the variety at all price points, from around $10 to $50. It is hard to find a viognier better than these.
The rich texture of viognier – a Yalumba, more specifically – is the ideal partner for this complex salad, writes Max Allen.
- 60 ml Sherry vinegar (¼ cup)
- 2 tbsp currants
- 30 ml Marsala
- 80 ml extra-virgin olive oil (1/3 cup)
- ½ garlic clove, crushed
- 1 pink lady apple, quartered, thinly sliced on a mandolin
- 2 baby fennel bulbs, thinly sliced on a mandolin and placed in iced acidulated water, fronds reserved
- 1 punnet each baby purple basil and mustard cress, trimmed
- 1½ cups (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley, coarsely torn
- To serve: grilled sourdough bread
- 100 gm woodchips, such as apple wood or mesquite, soaked in cold water for at least 1 hour, drained
- For greasing: vegetable oil
- 8 mackerel fillets
- 1For smoked mackerel, preheat a coal-bedded kettle barbecue to low heat and set up for indirect grilling (see note). Add half of woodchips around coals and cook until smoke appears (3-4 minutes). Place mackerel skin-side down on an oiled rack, cover with lid and smoke, adding extra woodchips if required, until cooked through (8-12 minutes). Cool to room temperature and coarsely flake (discard skin).
- 2Meanwhile, combine vinegar, currants and Marsala in a bowl and set aside until currants are plump (30 minutes). Whisk in oil and garlic and season to taste.
- 3Combine apple, fennel, basil, mustard cress, parsley and mackerel in a bowl, drizzle with a little currant dressing, toss to combine and season to taste. Serve drizzled with extra dressing, with grilled sourdough.
Note Indirect grilling is cooking away from the heat, using the top rack. It's important to have your coal base well established and glowing before adding woodchips. Drink suggestion by Max Allen