It’s Thursday afternoon and I’m skulking around Borough Market in my lunch break wondering what to make for supper. At the same time, I’m trying very very hard not to look at anything. This is every bit as torturous as it sounds. In fact it’s practically impossible and I urge you never to try it. Everyone I walk past is eating something mouthwateringly tasty, chorizo in a bun, humungous venison burgers, burnt sugar fudge or fresh, smoky paella, leaving trails of agonising deliciousness in their wake. Everything smells so good. The sun is shining and everyone looks so happy and carefree. I on the other hand want to cry.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s usually nowhere else I’d rather be when appropriately blessed with plenty of cash and time, buying a single Colchester native oyster here, an Arbroath Smokie there, chatting away to the lovely stall holders. Then cycling home with my treasures, giddy with the luxurious anticipation of tipping it all out on the kitchen table and realizing that once again I’ve bought an utterly random collection of food (but oh what bourgeoisie fun I’ve had buying it).
So much of the buzz of the market for me is talking to the stall holders. I’ve got to know quite a few of them over the years. There’s that nice man at the Wyndham Poultry stall who once spent weeks saving egg boxes and trays for me so I could soundproof the bedroom of our 24 hour party flat. Or the man on Furness Fish who slips me free bits of Pollack when Les isn’t looking. The ever-cheerful girls at Elsey and Bent and that lovely lady at De Gustibus who always does me a loaf of sourdough for a pound (now that I’ve worked out the precise time to turn up). There’s also Chris McFarlane who went to my 6th form. Chris used to skateboard and listen to the Pixies; my best friend Anna had the most god awful crush on him. He now runs the Boerenkaas stall – the rosemary wrapped Romero has a life span of approximately 20 minutes in our household.
I would usually stop and have a brief chin-wag with these folk or sample a bit of fudge perhaps. But today I ignore everyone and pound my blinkered way to the fishmongers because today I have £5 and £5 only and of course this means that everything around me looks more enticing than ever. Take that huge buttercup yellow pat of clotted cream butter for example, or those cinnamon biscuits in the shape of owls. All screaming BUY ME! EAT ME! I stare straight ahead and concentrate on obesity. On rolls of flab hanging over the tops of jeans. On not being able to pay the rent. Mrs Kings Pies silently mock me from behind their plastic counter. But it’s always the butcher that breaks me, those generous scarlet legs with whorls of sweet alabaster fat that you can’t help but imagine all crisped up and golden, the succulent slices falling onto the plate like swathes of red velvet…
Eventually I make it to Furness and have a brief chat with Les about the price of fish. He gives me a couple of mackerel fillets so fresh they smell of absolutely nothing and a generous handful of samphire to boot. For three quid. Yep, that’s right, three hundred English pence. Perfect.
I remember the box of mangoes and an old packet of wild rice we have at home and start to concoct a rough menu. Suddenly things don’t seem so bad after all…I tune my iPod to Elliot Smith and stroll blissfully back to work.
For the samphire salad
150g wild rice
2-3 big handfuls of samphire
2 heaped tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp dried seaweed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Finely chopped parsley
1 dsp rice vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
For the mackerel
2 very fresh mackerel fillets
5-6 sprigs of rosemary
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
1 tbsp Smoked salt
For the horseradish crème fraîche
20ml crème fraîche
1-2 tbsp horseradish
1/2 tbsp capers, drained
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp Smoked salt
For the salsa
2 ripe mangoes, diced
Fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 red onion or 2 spring onions, roughly chopped
½ red pepper
½ yellow pepper
1 tbsp jalapeño peppers
Salt and pepper
Lime juice to taste
1 chilli, finely chopped
- Put the rice on – (wild rice needs more water than the standard stuff and a longer cooking time so check the instructions on the packet). Also, if you have some soak a handful dried seaweed in a mug of hot water.
- Make a few slashes in the mackerel fillets and sprinkle generously with the smoked salt. Leave in a cool place.
- Mix the crème fraîche with the horseradish, a crushed clove of garlic, ½ tbsp capers, salt and pepper. Stir in some finely chopped parsley if you have some. Stir well and taste to check seasoning.
- Blanch the samphire for a couple of minutes until just tender, drain and cool.
- When the rice is cooked, drain and cool.
- Combine the samphire with the rice and seaweed.
- Toast the pine nuts, add to the samphire and rice.
- Mix in the extra virgin olive oil.
- Combine the salsa ingredients in a bowl.
- Rinse the fish and pat dry. Insert the rosemary sprigs and garlic slivers into the slashes and pre heat the grill.
- Grill the fish over a high heat.
- Add the rice vinegar and soy to the samphire salad.
- Serve the fish, with the salsa and the samphire salad. Serve the horseradish crème fraîche in a separate dish to spoon over the fish and mix in the salad.