Fennel has a natural season from autumn through to early spring in the warm-to-temperate climates where it grows prolifically. It is particularly at its best in the first month of spring where the natural fresh flavour tends to be strongest. In this recipe fennel really is the star of the show, complimenting the oily, rich and earthy mackerel flavours and off set with crisp tart apple and a sweet honey, lemon and mustard dressing.
In essence this recipe provides elements of hot, sweet, sour and salty which all work so well with the mackerel. Make sure you use Maldon Sea Salt for the dressing as suggested in the recipe, as the quality of salt makes all the difference in this dish!
For the salad;
1 large fresh mackerel, filleted and de boned (ask your fish monger to do this for you)
1 coxes apple or a sharp and crisp equivalent
1 bulb of fennel plus the fonds
For the dressing;
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
½ red chilli, chopped (leave the seeds in)
Fennel fonds, chopped
½ teaspoon of runny honey
1 lemon, juice and zest
2 tablespoons of olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for cooking the fish
A large pinch of Maldon Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Combine the mustard, honey, lemon juice and zest and chopped chilli in a little jar with half of the fennel fonds and a large pinch of Maldon Salt and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper. Now pour in the oil, place on the lid and shake well until the dressing is emulsified.
Spoon a teaspoon of the dressing over the flesh side of the prepared mackerel fillets and leave to marinade while you make the salad.
On a very fine setting on a mandolin, shave the fennel followed by the apple. This can also be done by hand but I find you don’t really get the super crunchy fresh effect.
Pour over half of the dressing and mix well. Do this as soon as possible to stop the apple and fennel from oxidising and turning brown.
Heat a non-stick frying pan to a medium high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil and fry the fish on the skin side for 2-3 minutes. Try to hold the fish flat in the pan for the first 30 seconds of cooking to prevent the fish curling and an uneven colouring. Once the skin has started to colour, turn off the heat, flip the fish and leave to rest while you assemble your dish.
Pile the salad high on a plate and top with the fish. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and the last of the fennel fonds
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