Sunday, 4 May 2014

Smoked Mackerel, Beetroot & Apple Salad

I have mentioned before the influence my grandmother had on me and my love of good food and cooking. She truly was an amazing cook and people really enjoyed coming to her house for dinner, because they knew that they would be treated to the very best of home cooked food. She was quite an adventurous cook and loved using exotic spices and what would have been considered unusual ingredients in the Ireland of her day. There was no pretension in her cookery, but everything was always so well presented and looked inviting and delicious to eat.

There were times, however, when I was a little dubious about the idea of some of the things that she proposed to make and present for us to eat. One occasion that particularly stands out in my memory was the time that she decided to make homemade smoked mackerel pâté which she wanted to serve on thinly sliced brown soda bread, to guests she would be entertaining one evening. The thought of a fishy flavoured paste really did not excite me. When everything was plated up in preparation for the imminent visitors, she urged me to try a little sliver of the pâté smeared bread. I tentatively took the tiniest of nibbles and couldn’t believe the salty, almost sweet flavour of the pâté; it was delicious. In that moment began my life-long epicurean love affair with mackerel, in all its forms.
Mackerel is an oily fish and as such, lends itself perfectly to being smoked. Unlike many other fish, it stands up well to spicy and robust flavours; I especially like serving it with a gooseberry or rhubarb compote as the tartness of these cut through the rich oiliness of the mackerel.
But here, I am presenting my recipe for a salad which uses smoked mackerel. I regularly make this salad, sometimes with slight variations when I want a quick, nutritious but satisfying meal. The subtle earthiness of the beetroot complements the oily mackerel perfectly, whilst the apple creates adds a welcome freshness on the palate.


250g smoked mackerel, skin and bones removed
6-8 cooked beetroot (I either roast my own of buy the vacuum packed ones)
1 small bunch spring onions cut into diagonal slices
1 apple, cored and sliced into thin wedges
100g cooked puy lentils
4-5 boiled baby new potatoes, sliced (optional)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
100ml sour cream
2tblsp creamed horseradish


1. Gently toss all the salad ingredients together in a large salad bowl.
2. Using a small whisk mix all the dressing ingredients together and just before serving, drizzle over the salad.
3. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Serves 4.