Salt-grilled mackerel with horseradish crème fraîche, mango salsa and samphire rice salad


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.


(Serves 2)

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

1 avocado

3 tomatoes

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.


  1. Oooo- this looks nice! Keep meaning to do something with mackeral and fresh horseradish but haven’t quite managed to get round to it. Only wish we had such a great fishmongers here.
    But Borough Market and only £5 do not sound like a good combination!

  2. I'll do the washing up

    I can confirm that this was excellent.

  3. The mackerel look amazing. Good shopping.

    Would have totally bought the owl biscuits though!

  4. Lovely! I know what you mean about Borough. I only go if I have the money to indulge. It feels like utter deprivation otherwise!

    The mackerel dish looks delish!

  5. I still listen to the Pixies

  6. Dan

    You got mackerel and samphire for 3 quid?!!! Can I come on your next shopping trip?

  7. Dan

    Great post – love your description of wandering around Borough – they must like you to sell you something for £3 LOL

    As for Samphire, I’ve never had it – and I live by the coast (well Thames Estuary – but ‘the coast’ conjures up a nicer image). I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.

  8. The salad recipe sounds delish. I have a bag of the stuff leftover in the fridge…you know like you do.

    By the way I always try and comment on the bottom of each of your posts which is for the previous post. That might just be me though ??

  9. gastrogeek

    Fastest Indian – thanks, it was a bit harsh I must say! The poverty that is, not the mackerel..

    I’ll do the washing up – so glad you approve dear (think you missed a bit on the bottom of that plate).

    Graphic Foodie – cheers, they’re by a company called the cinnamon tree bakery, and they’re addictive!

    Niamh, thanks, I definitely learnt a lesson there. Will make sure I’ve saved up enough for the next time!

    Meemalee – Errm me too. (shh!!)

    the Dans – thanks, you are of course more than welcome to accompany me on my blagging, I mean shopping trips. Samphire is so, so good. You should be able to get it where you are, I think it’s only around for a certain season. I definitely rate it above asparagus, it’s quite salty and tender.

    The War on Cookbooks – Me too! I always end up with bits of moldering salad in my fridge – re. the posts, I need to play around with the format, but for some reason the comments for each post end up at the top of the post. Arrgh! WordPress can be such a pain.

  10. Wow – I love the samphire and rice salad! Really shoudl try that (in the unlikely event that I can get my hands on some samphire, now that I am a slave to home-owner’s DIY…). Borough truly is a trial on a limited budget.

    BTW, did the eggbox soundproofing really work?? Have a noisy pump in the boiler cupboard that I’d love to keep quieter…

    • gastrogeek

      It can be pricey, but I’d rather spend the money (when I have it) on decent grub than on handbags, but then I’m a bit weird like that.

      Egg boxing definitely cut out a lot of the sound, but the trick is to layer them…I have some spare ones if you want them?

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