Fish for supper
We were all hunter-gatherers until about 10,000 years ago (modern Homosapiens that is). Today I suspect that, for most of us, this is limited to hunting for a car parking space at the supermarket and gathering our shopping bags at the checkout.
Soap box alert: Our dissociation from the source of our food has led to many of our food production ills (salmonella in eggs, BSE etc) and that I am always dismayed to witness how squeamish many of my friends and family are at staring the origins of their food in the face.
The gathering side can be easy to get involved with; bushes were laden with blackberries and sloes as I left an England just going into Autumn (for the steamy shores of Dubai). Hunting is a different matter altogether. If I suggested that we all go out and shoot pheasants for the pot as a family day out I think I’d get short shrift. However, hands shot up eagerly when my husband suggested we all go mackerel fishing. Even the vegetarian was keen.
When booking, the very friendly lady assured me that she suffered from the same lack of sea legs as me and found that taking ginger tablets did the trick. Not wanting to drive after taking the stronger forms of sea-sickness remedy I located the nearest Boots the Chemist, popped a pill and ferried our merry band to the beach at Exmouth.
There was something about the red and blue boat that looked both jolly and vulnerable. Under grey skies, the trawler chugged out to the fishing grounds, the World Heritage Jurassic coastline receding rapidly. The engine ceased and the boat began to gently roll on the swell. The crew members handed out rods and gave brief instructions and soon about 30 lines and weights were dangling over the sides. It was a slow start until a large man proudly hauled in his first gleaming mackerel, gleaming silver, black and blue. My husband and teens followed suit although my vegetarian daughter put most of hers back into the green, grey choppy water.
After nearly two hours, the cheerful crew gutted the catch and allocated fish according to how many each person had landed. A tightly tied plastic bag with five mackerel was our booty. I could hear the buzz and chatter, the delight at catching two fish on one line, the filleting skills and the fact that five men succumbed to the nausea-making lurch of craft. My head was over the side, eyes tightly shut for most of the journey – drat those ginger pills.
While freshness in fish is always desirable, in mackerel it is essential as it deteriorates rapidly. It is an oily fish which benefits from simple cooking. Put some herbs into the cavity and bake them. I used rosemary and roasted some rhubarb alongside. The oily flesh stays moist and succulent and ours were ready in about 20 minutes in a hot oven. Catching our dinner (or in my case hearing it being caught) was exhilarating and there are no lingering shots of the cooked version as we ate it straight away.
Mackerel are pelagic fish, swimming near the surface in shoals. The size of these shoals are now diminished and so subject to stringent controls, however mackerel are fast-swimming, breed early and are not as popular in Europe as fish like cod and haddock so haven’t been as affected here by overfishing.
Species of mackerel caught locally in the UAE include the Indian Mackerel (Garfa) and the King Mackerel (also known as Kingfish or Kanaad), both have a stronger fishy flavour, firm flesh and are high in Omega 3. Excellent grilled, I’d recommend an outside barbecue as the smell can be quite strong in the house.
Baked mackerel with red onion and rosemary
5 mackerel, gutted, cleaned heads removed
1 red onion
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
several sprigs of rosemary
- Cut the red onion in half and then into thin slices
- Wash and dry the mackerel
- Season the inside of the fish with salt and pepper and put a few pieces of onion and a sprig of rosemary inside each one
- Drizzle a tiny amount of olive oil in a baking dish, scatter the remaining onion over the base and lay the fish on top in one layer
- Bake in a preheated oven of 200 C until the fish is cooked (about 20-25 minutes)
Serve with baked rhubarb (200g rhubarb, cut into short lengths put in a roasting tin 2 tablespoons of caster sugar and baked until just soft enough to take the point of a knife – about 20 minutes.)
We used Tiger Charters for our fishing trip in Exmouth.
Have you had any hunter or gatherer moments lately?