HIGH SUMMER - Pan-fried Mackerel with Tomato Stew & Pesto / Fresh Berries with Passion Fruit Zabaglione

Pan Fried MackerelIt pays to look especially carefully at food labels when shopping for fresh food at this time of year, as there should be no excuse for shops palming us off with imports when there is so much delicious seasonal produce available on the doorstep. The best treats of all are the ‘unofficial’ offerings, like peas in the pod and other vegetables and fruit that have sadly become less common in these days of ‘choice’, but are often supplied to local shops by enthusiastic amateur growers – and, of course, the fish and shellfish you and your family catch while on holiday around the coast. Mackerel has epitomised the Irish holiday atmosphere for generations of Irish families and, thankfully, fishing for these pretty (and healthy) little fish is still one of the happiest summer pastimes for boys of all ages.

Pan-fried Mackerel with Tomato Stew & Pesto

This simple seasonal dish is adapted from a recipe in Neven Maguire’s Cookery Collection (Poolbeg EUR19.99). The main ingredients are all in high season at the moment, so make the most of them and enjoy eating local. Allow one or two filleted fish per person, depending on the size of the fish – and appetite.

Serves 4:

4-8 mackerel, filleted
1 oz/25g butter
Flat parsley to garnish
Tomato Stew:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 tomatoes, cut into chunks
Dash red wine vinegar
1 rounded tsp sugar
1 teaspoon tomato pure

2 bunches basil
3 oz/75g Parmesan
2 oz/50g pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
½ pint/275 ml olive oil

First make the tomato stew: Heat the tablespoon of olive oil in a small pan, then add the onion and cook
gently for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar and tomato pure. Stir well and season to taste. Let this stew cook slowly for about 5 minutes, until it dries out a little.

To make the pesto: Put the basil, chopped Parmesan, pine nuts and basil into a blender. Season and blend for 1-2 minutes. Add the olive oil and blend again, then turn into a screw-top jar and store in the fridge to use as required.

For the fish: Score the flesh of the mackerel 3 times on each side. Heat the butter in a hot pan and place the fish skin side down and cook for 5 minutes. Turn over and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Neven suggests serving the mackerel with polenta (he gives a recipe in the book), but that could be a bit fiddly for holiday cooking, so why not cook up some lovely Irish new potatoes instead – they will make a delicious high summer dish with the fish, tomato stew and a drizzle of pesto.

Fresh Berries with Passion Fruit Zabaglione

Fresh Summer BerriesSummer berries need very little enhancement but – in case you are tiring of the usual simple accompaniments like fresh cream, crème fraiche, yogurt or ice cream, or would like something special to lift fresh berries for a party - you might like to try this Italian speciality from Piero Melis of The Courthouse Restaurant, Kinlough, Co. Leitrim.

Serves 4-6:

5 egg yolks
5 tablespoons passion fruit pulp
125g /5oz caster sugar
125g /5oz blueberries
150g /6oz raspberries
150g /6oz strawberries
125ml/4fl.oz sweet white wine

To make the zabaglione: Combine egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl and beat until thick and pale. Beat in sweet white wine. Place bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Continue to beat for 15 minutes or until the mixture is very thick, not allowing the bowl to over-heat. It will be ready when it forms soft mounds. Remove bowl from the heat and continue beating for a further 5 minutes. Fold in the passion fruit pulp and serve with the fresh berries.


BlueberryWhat Are They?
Blueberries are perhaps the most widely used of the ‘Vaccinium’, a genus of about 400 species of ericaceous (heather family) shrubs which all bear edible fruits – including bilberries (fraughan) and cranberries, as well as blueberries.

Where Do They Come From?
Their origins are diverse but the most common forms are from North America, home of the high-bush blueberry and a major source of commercially grown large-berried blueberries, and Europe, where its smaller cousin, the bilberry (fraughan) grows wild in mountainous areas and heathland. Their small blue-black fruits are in season in July and August and (if you can beat the birds to it) picking them makes a lovely family day out in, for example, areas like the Wicklow Hills. The larger blueberries thrive (and can be grown commercially) in areas such as spent bogland.

What Can I do With Them?
Blueberries are renowned for their anti-oxidant qualities and make a delicious, super-healthy ingredient for all sorts of drinks and dishes including smoothies, juices, sorbets, ice creams and sauces. They’re extremely versatile and taste equally delicious whether cooked or uncooked – they add a welcome bite and colour contrast to all soft fruit combinations and both blueberries and bilberries have a special affinity with apples, so why not use them with the first of the windfalls to rustle up some delicious pures and pies…?

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