There is a time and a place for slow food, and Tuesday evening is neither the time nor the place.
I’m exhausted when I get home after work. I don’t want to have to wait until 10pm for supper. I want, if not instant gratification, something that will sate me more quickly than it takes me to remember the term ‘instant gratification’.
So often, I find myself eating branflakes. Or filled pasta. Or toast. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but often I don’t want to, I’m just so tired and brain-wiped that I can’t even consider sifting through recipe books, or concocting something from the fridge, or weigh up the pros and cons of various dishes.
So, this is a new section for the blog: what’s for supper? This is what I’m really eating. This is what I’m cooking. And it’s rare that I’m prepared to cook something that takes more than 30 minutes from the hob being switched on, to sitting down at the table. More often, it’s far less than that. My ideal supper is one which can be prepared in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Sometimes I’ll throw things to pickle or marinade or sit in a pan as soon as I get home, and then potter about doing the bits of adult life that no one ever prepares you for (never reaching laundry basket zero, how sticky the hood of the cooker gets without rhyme or reason, having to not only pay bills but write ‘PAID’ across them in thick pen).
This is designed to be a short, simple section of the blog where I write – briefly – about what I eat when supper goes right. What is, for the most part, quick, and is always easy. And always, always delicious. I particularly like simple suppers that can be effortlessly doubled to give even simpler packed lunches from the leftovers.
So, first up is hot teriyaki mackerel with quick pickled cucumber. This dish is my ultimate failsafe when I want to feel like a functioning adult. It’s the contrast of textures and temperatures that make this dish sing: hot, smoky, ever-so-slightly oily mackerel set against cool, crunchy, sweet-sour cucumber, speckled with bright red chilli. Don’t pickle the cucumber for longer than 30 minutes or you’ll lose this gorgeous combination.
I tend not to make my own sauce because, god, life. But sometimes I do and even that is surprisingly simple and easy, so be kind to yourself, take your teriyaki temperature, and work out whether it would be fine, actually, or if it would be one step too far.
It goes like this:
Hot teriyaki mackerel and quick pickled cucumber
[Adapted from BBC Goodfood]
Makes: 2 simple suppers, but happily halved, or doubled for leftovers
Takes: (including marinading and pickling) 35 minutes
Bakes: 5 minutes
For the marinade
3 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce or
1 teaspoon of dark brown sugar
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of grated ginger
1 teaspoon of honey
1 tablespoon of water
1 tablespoon of soy
1 teaspoon of mirin if you have it.
2 smoked mackerel fillets
50g caster sugar
50ml white wine vinegar
1 red chilli pepper
1. Marinade the mackerel fillets. If you’re using pre-bought sauce – God knows I generally do – bung it in a dish big enough to hold the two fillets flat, turn the fillets in the sauce, cover with clingfilm, and pop in the refrigerator for half an hour. If you’re making it yourself, mix all the marinade ingredients together, and pop the mackerel in as above.
2. Pickle the cucumber: halve the cucumber and scrape out the seeds. Slice it into lengthways into long, thin ribbons. Heat the sugar with the vinegar, until the sugar dissolves, snip in the chilli pepper, and add the cucumber ribbons. Cover it in clingfilm, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Heat up a frying pan and, when hot, place the mackerel fillets skinside down for two minutes. Turn over gently (I use a palette knife here) and cook the other side for two minutes. Whilst the second side is cooking, add any leftover marinade to the pan to heat up and very slightly reduce. Place one fillet on each plate and drizzle with the warm marinade. Spoon generous amounts of pickled cucumber onto the plate in haphazard piles. Serve with rice if you fancy, or beansprouts warmed through in the remnants of the marinade in the hot pan.
4. Ta Dah!
The mackerel fillets are glorious when cooled down and flaked through salad or baby spinach leaves, especially if there’s also a bit of leftover pickled cucumber ribbons woven through the salad, and the spiky cool sweet-sour pickling juice is drizzled over as dressing.