Get to grips with oily fish
Barbecued mackerel will nourish your noggin, and not your waistline.
Published 23/06/2014 | 02:30
"There is no health without mental health,” stresses psychiatrist, Professor Jim Lucey. So, what if you could eat to charge your brain?
You can. What if there were foods to help fertilise your brain cells? There are! Recipes pumped with omega-3 fats and B vitamins are your new BFs (Brain Fertilisers). Following last week’s column on B vitamins, here’s another recipe to hot-wire your neurotransmitters.
Smart fats, like omega-3s, nourish your noggin and not your waistline. Fill your shopping basket with oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies.
Plant-based omega-3s are just as tasty. Think walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, spirulina and flax. But beware: the side effects include luminous skin, better mood and happier hormones.
Barbecue Mackerel with Easy-as-Hell Fennel Salad and Parsley-powered Potatoes
Mackerel is a gloriously rich fish, spinning with omega-3 goodness. If you’re planning a barbecue, you can make this salad the day before and keep it covered in the fridge.
2 medium fennel bulbs
1 garlic clove, crushed
125ml (4fl oz) extra-virgin olive oil
1½ tablespoons good-quality sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole black or white peppercorns, crushed
6 tablespoons pitted green olives (not canned)
For the baby potatoes, you will need:
Enough baby potatoes for 5 people
A few tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Loads of fresh parsley, torn
Maldon salt flakes to taste
5 fresh mackerel fillets
Make sure your fennel is fresh and tender — age tends to turn the outer layers leathery. A bit like ourselves. Find the slicing blade that fits snugly into your food processor’s bowl. Thinly slice both fennel bulbs, reserving the wispy fronds to use as garnish later. You’re looking for very finely sliced fennel (a sharp knife and patience also works).
In a separate bowl, socialise the crushed garlic, the extra-virgin olive oil, the sherry vinegar, the fennel seeds and some crushed black or white peppercorns, whichever you are using.
Spoon this mixture into the bowl of finely sliced fennel and leave it to infuse until hunger hollers. This dish will last a good few days in the fridge.
Boil or steam the baby potatoes for up to 20 minutes. While they’re warm, add the extra-virgin olive oil, the crushed garlic cloves, the torn parsley and the salt flakes. Toss, then set aside.
Now, cook the mackerel. Give the fish fillets a lick of extra-virgin olive oil and throw them on a hot barbecue or under a grill. As soon as the sides of the fish start turning up (around two minutes), turn the fillets over and cook them for another few minutes. That’s it. Don’t forget about the bones. Gently pull the flesh away from the main bone once the fish is cooked; the rest is a cinch.
When you’re ready to serve the dish, scatter the reserved fennel fronds on top of the fennel salad, followed by the pitted green olives. If these are added in advance, the fronds will wilt and turn grey, while the olives will cannibalise the fennel’s delicate taste.
We serve everything together on the garden table, and let our guests help themselves.