Food is like clothes. It has its fashion and its revivals. Mention the 60s and people will roll their eyes at the mere idea of dinner-parties and their omnipresent prawn cocktails. In the 80s, everything was blackened and pasta salads ruled the lunches. The 00s suddenly saw everything shrink – burgers became sliders and cakes turned into cups.
No matter which decade we are in, there is always that very special dish; every single one of us has one, our little favourite. That dish which will cross time, morph and reappear in many occasions. It's not a signature dish, it's just a dish. A little bit like that much loved piece of clothing bought way back and now full of memories. Worn at a party in happy days and lived in for days onwards when the mood darkened.
Mackerel pâté is very much like that. Inconspicuous and extremely versatile, ready in 10 minutes, it is the perfect lunch or light dinner; it contains as much omega-3 oils as two portions of fish. Mackerel doesn't have a good reputation, it's often accused of being too... fishy – sure the smell can be rather powerful. It's the reason why, for this recipe, I chose canned mackerel rather than the freshly smoked kind.
It can be prepared with sour cream, cream cheese, crème fraîche or mayonnaise. The principle is the same, all the way through, a tin of mackerel in oil for a tablespoon of the chosen ingredient mentioned above.
I first noticed that dish in a restaurant in Belgium, served as a starter in a mini white lion soup bowl usually reserved for onion soups. The mackerel was hardly mashed; it had a very traditional feel with an addition of chives and horseradish. This is the perfect way to serve mackerel pâté at dinner among friends.
Next time, mackerel pâté made an appearance it had its little cocktail dressing. Mixed in a food processor, the texture was extremely smooth thanks to a mixture of crème fraîche and cream cheese served as a quenelle (an effect which can be achieved by spooning any texture once with a tablespoon and transferring it into another tablespoon). The quenelle had been placed on a salsa of shallots and capers.
It doesn't have to be smooth to look good. Simply place in white tasting spoons and it makes a lovely pre-drink snack. Whichever way you prefer it, the secret is plenty of pepper.