Mackerel, braised shallots with chorizo and chilli, and tomato salad


After bemoaning my fragile relationship with the kitchen, I again headed to the market in search of a delicious but deeply thrifty supper for me and my flatmate. Thrifty it was not – £17 I spent for 2 mackerel, a handful of tomatoes, ditto shallots, a bunch of basil and a loaf of bread. I hope my parents don’t read this, as if they discover their unemployed son is splurging this sort of wonga then I fear sympathy may start to wear thin.

Nonetheless, for the time being (that is, until the bailiff starts bashing down the door) spending more than is strictly necessary on ingredients is worth it when they are of such good quality. Last night’s supper was one of the best I have eaten in a long time – not on the strength of the cooking, but just because everything was so fresh. The tomatoes juicy and meaty, the shallots sweet and slippery, and the fish just perfect. Serve with new potatoes fried with rosemary and garlic.

Serves 2

4 banana shallots, whole and peeled, ends trimmed
25g butter
A little oil
100ml marsala or something similar. Or wine. Or not. Up to you. Marsala or sherry best though.
300ml chicken stock
50g chopped chorizo
1 chilli, seeded and finely chopped
4 mackerel fillets
2 large tomatoes
A few basil leaves
White wine vinegar
Olive oil
Salt, pepper and sugar

Melt the butter in a saute pan with a little oil over a moderate heat. Add the shallots, season and allow to gently colour on all sides, until well browned all over. Increase the flame and add the booze. Boil for a minute or so then add the stock. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 25 minutes until the shallots are soft and the cooking liquor has reduced to a sticky consistency.

Meanwhile, fry the chorizo in another frying pan, again in a little oil, until crispy. Remove and keep warm, though wash the pan at your peril. Make the tomato salad, slicing the tomatoes and tossing with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little sugar and vinegar. Tear the basil leaves and stir in.

Season the fish with salt and pepper. Heat the pan in which you fried the chorizo over a medium-high flame, and add the mackerel, skin side down. Fry for 2 minutes on each side then rest for a further 2 minutes. Serve with the tomato salad and the shallots garnished with the chorizo and chopped chilli.

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