This Indian Mackerel Pate recipe came about because I was watching Saturday Kitchen this weekend and saw Rick Stein do a wonderfully simple mackerel dish with an Indian spice rub. One of the guests in the studio this week was Atul Kochhar so I decided to buy some mackerel but rather than follow Rick Stein’s recipe I asked myself what Atul might do with them. He is renowned for his delicate spicing and for adding a surprising twist to his dishes. Hence I thought it might be interesting to have go at being inventive with this most under valued fish, (hopefully) taking his approach as inspiration. This Indian Mackerel Pate was the result. It is incredibly light; the lime juice brings a wonderful freshness, the turmeric a subtle earthiness and the aromatics (ginger, chilli, garlic, cumin and coriander) do not overpower but instead work together with the mackerel to lift it from its usual humble status as an everyday fish to make it something I would be happy to serve at a dinner party.
I served them as a starter with some home made flatbreads infused with kaloonji seeds (also known as black onion seeds or nigella seeds) and dried chilli flakes (recipe below) and a chilli jam reduction, but a little good quality mango chutney and/or lime pickle would also work.
2-3 cloves garlic
1 thumb sized piece of ginger
3 green chillis
1 small onion
1/4 tsp each of cumin seeds and coriander seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
Handful coriander stalks
Juice of 1 large or 2 small limes
1 oz butter
180 ml warm water
250g wholemeal flour
Tsp each of black onion seeds and dried chilli flakes (or to taste)
Good pinch of salt
For the mackerel: first make deep slashes in the skin of the fish and grill on both sides for around four minutes until cooked through but still tender. Allow to cool for five minutes, fillet them and put aside the flesh. Don’t let the fish cool for too long or the skin adheres to the flesh and becomes difficult to remove.
Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry pan for a few moments until they begin to give off their wonderful aroma and then grind them either in a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. Next, de-seed your chillis. If you like heat leave some of the seeds in as this is where the fire lies. Roughly chop the ginger, garlic, onion and coriander stalks and saute them all gently in a pan with the chilli and a little oil. When they are soft but not browned add the cumin, coriander and turmeric and cook through over a low heat for a few mins, turning all the time. Finally, put the fish, the aromatics and the lime juice in a blender and blend until smooth stopping every now and then to scrape the sides down. When it is smooth add the butter cut into small cubes and blend one last time until the butter is completely incorporated. Now, and only now, taste the pate and add salt to season.
At this stage you have to decide how you want to present the pate on the plate. If you wish to present the pate in a quenelle style as above simply chill all the pate in a bowl in the fridge. If however you prefer a moulded presentation style take 4 dariole moulds and line them with cling film leaving plenty hanging over the edge. Divide the pate mixture between them and cover with the excess cling film. Chill them in the fridge for at least two hours.
For the flatbreads: in large bowl add the water to the dry ingredients and gently combine with a palette knife and then knead into a soft dough. Or, do what I do and cheat by throwing the ingredients into a bread machine and let it do the work for you. Rest the dough in the fridge for 30 mins. When you’re ready to make the flatbreads divide the dough into six equal pieces and roll out on a floured surface. Don’t worry about making them perfectly round. Next, place a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and cook the flatbreads without oil. They will take about a minute each side and when they are ready to turn small air bubbles will appear. The breads will puff up very slightly. As each one becomes cooked transfer it to a cooling rack and add another to the pan. When you are ready to serve the breads brush them with a little oil and again, if you like heat (and most definitely do), sprinkle a few more dried chilli flakes on top and place under a hot grill for a few moments. You could also use fresh chill turned in a little oil and salt.
To serve the starters dariole style, turn each pate out onto a plate and provide each guest with a small serving each of mango chutney and lime pickle and one flat bread per person. To serve quenelle style give each person two decent sized quenelles using tablespoons to make them and let down some mango chutney or chilli jam (mine is home made but it is available to buy) with a 1:1 ratio of cider vinegar and pinch of salt. Drizzle your sauce around the quenelles and add a little shredded fresh coriander leaf for garnish. Put the extra flatbreads cut into wedges on the table in case anyone has any pate left when their breads are finished.