Things are getting a little romantic in the kitchen and with Valentine’s Day only next week it is the sign of spring on the horizon.
The menu over the last week has been riddled with the last of the wintery vegetables, the tender tops of sprouts, the last pumpkins of the season and the slightly sweet purple topped turnips. But with spring a month or so away, we’re in a bit of a seasonal no-man’s land!
At times like this, and there’s a similar patch mid-autumn, I call upon the ‘Pickles and Preserves’ Shelf in the fridge.
We have 30-40 2 litre Kilner jars packed with what were freshly picked home-grown produce, either preserved by the power of vinegar, sugar or fermentation. I must confess to being a slight Pickle Addict, (I could get through a jar of silverskin onions in one sitting), but the beauty of a pickle is they provide a taste of the seasons past, the sweetness of the summer on a cold February afternoon, and fill the previously mentioned seasonal gaps in produce.
My dish of the month this February combined arguably my favourite of last year’s pickled produce, and some locally caught and smoked fish.
Smoked Mackerel on Toast, with a Pickled Rhubarb Chutney:
2 Fillets of Smoked Mackerel
2 Slices of Sourdough Freshly Toasted
50g Cream Cheese
1 Lemon Zest
Juice of Half a Lemon
Small bunch of Dill, finely chopped
200g Pickled Rhubarb
1 Small White Onion
First make a quick chutney with the pickled rhubarb – dice the onion and sweat in a small pan, chop the rhubarb into small pieces and add to the pan. Sprinkle in the sugar, before adding enough of pickling liquor to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook down until the rhubarb is soft and tender and has formed a smooth chutney.
Carefully remove the skin from the mackerel, and flake the fish into a bowl, dill, with the lemon juice and zest and the cream cheese. Mix together until a smooth pate is formed. Season generously.
Quite simply, spread a generous amount of the pate onto the toast, dollop on the rhubarb chutney and eat quickly while the toast is warm.
Enjoy the remainder of the rhubarb chutney on a cheeseboard, or reserve to enjoy at a later date.