A Suffolk Story & a Smoked Mackerel Salad

Our Suffolk Story is mainly visual………..enormous skies, arresting landscapes, mouthwatering produce, wondrous people………all captured through Jeremy's lens........let us explain.

Last month, Jeremy and I spent an inspiring few days on the Suffolk Coast. The premise of our little adventure was the incredible opportunity to host two popup dinners at the award winning Pump Street Bakery (AKA the Pink Palace of Deliciousness).

Joanna Brennan, one of the owners of the Pump Street Bakery and Pump Street Chocolate has championed us since the beginning of Building Feasts. She has collaborated on many of our Supper Clubs with her outstanding breads and chocolate and supported us as we grow with infinite encouragement and friendship. So when she posed the idea of us cooking in her kitchen using all the bounty of the local ingredients, we jumped at the chance with our hearts fluttering, honoured to be asked.

There were so many highlights. Starting with waking up every morning to the massive skies bearing the most exquisite light on the horizontal landscape, daily breakfasts at Pump Street Bakery, finalising our menu only once we saw the produce available on the day (a stark contrast to our methodical London meal planning) and meeting the hugely generous and creative local community.

We were lucky enough to have a few extra hours to meet some of Suffolk's talented artisinal entrepreneurs including illustrator Cheryl Rawlings, who reminded us that it all starts at the table, ceramicist Sophie Cook who introduced us to her colourful world of porcelain magic and designer Susannah Cook who shared tea with us at her aspirational space, The Merchants Table.

We couldn’t possibly touch on our Pump Street Adventure without a recipe. This smoked mackerel salad was one of our starters for our Popup at the Bakery, served alongside beetroot carpaccio and Pump Street focaccia. All of our fish on the menu, including arguably the best smoked mackerel we have ever eaten came from Pinney’s. Literally down the road from Pump Street Bakery, and considered one of the countries finest smoke houses, the mackerel in our salad was delicate and sweet. If you don’t live around the corner from Orford Quay, use the best quality smoked mackerel you can find - usually from your fishmonger or deli, preferably not vacuum sealed.

Suffolk, we cannot wait to come back for another adventure and look forward to some beautiful collaborations in the not too distant future.

 

Smoked Mackerel Salad

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A version of this salad is seen most summer weekends around here, either as a starter for a large evening gathering or the ideal lunch accompanied by a crusty wedge of your favourite sourdough.   Feel free to make a build your own with your favourite combination of smoked fish and vegetable. We often make a version with hot smoked salmon fillets or smoked trout accompanied by any beautiful looking seasonal veg of choice that we stumble upon in the market or lurking in the back of the fridge.

We grilled the mackerel before serving with some butter for a crispy texture on one side and extra buttery deliciousness, but this step is definitely an optional extra.  

We know that the length of this recipe looks like a bit of a faff, but really it only takes a few minutes to assemble.  Truly.

 

Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main course.

1 whole smoked mackerel

25g good salted butter (herb or anchovy butter work well here too)

3 large eggs

2 baby gem hearts

50g rocket leaves

50g lambs lettuce or mache

50g fine green beans, trimmed

8 breakfast radishes

Dressing:

1 garlic clove, crushed with 1 tsp maldon salt

100g creme fraiche

1 tbsp wholegrain mustard

juice of half a lemon

60ml olive oil

a small handful of chives, finely chopped

small bunch of parsley and dill, finely chopped

a few good grinds of pepper to taste

Optional Extras:

steamed or boiled purple potatoes (or new potatoes if you can’t get your hands on any purple beauties)

pickled red onions

crumbled goats cheese or feta

raw sugar snap peas, sliced on the diagonal

fresh peas (when in season)

salmon or trout roe always looks gorgeous for a crowd

 

Make the dressing:

This can be made the day before.

Crush the garlic clove with the malden salt with the back of your knife until it becomes a paste.

Place garlic in the bottom of a medium sized bowl and add the creme fraiche, wholegrain mustard, lemon juice and whisk to combine.  

Slowly whisk in the olive oil until it is fully incorporated and taste for seasoning.  

Add the herbs, mix, and when the salad is ready, spoon over just before taking it to the table.

Make the salad:

We like to serve this on a flat plate rather than a bowl.

Grill Mackerel:

If you are going to grill the mackerel, turn on your grill to high and line a baking sheet with foil.  

Place the mackerel onto the prepared baking sheet and gently open it up so that it is butterflied and the flesh is facing up. Remove the backbone and as many of the bones as you can without breaking up the flesh (you can remove the others as you flake it into the salad).

Smear about 25g softened butter over the mackerel and place under the grill for a minute or two (depending on the heat) until it is lightly burnished and crispy.  

Remove from the oven and allow to cook while you assemble the rest of the salad.

Blanch green beans:

If you are using green beans, bring a shallow pan of water to the boil and add a generous pinch of salt.  When boiling, blanch the beans for a minute, making sure they are still bright green and have a crunch. Drain and refresh in a bowl of cold water.

Make Jammy Eggs (can be cooked much earlier in the day)

Fill a small saucepan with water and bring to a full rolling boil.

Carefully lower the eggs into the water and cook for EXACTLY 6 minutes.  Drain and run under cold water until cool to the touch.

The yolks will be runny, it’s part of the beauty.  If you want them to be firmer, cook for another 30 seconds to a minute.

Assemble Salad:

Scatter the gem heart leaves, rocket and lambs lettuce over the bottom of the plate.  

Slice the beans on the diagonal into halves or thirds, depending on their length, and scatter over.

Thinly slice the radishes (we do this on a mandolin), and scatter half over the salad, reserving the other half for garnish on top.

Peel the eggs carefully (they will be soft), and quarter.

Break up the mackerel flesh into bite size pieces, removing any more bones.  

Scatter the flesh and the eggs over the leaves.  This is your creative moment!

Top with remaining radishes and spoon over dressing (channel Jackson Pollock).

While we are not yet paid up members of the Suffolk Tourist Board, a huge thanks goes to our wonderful friends Nick and Alexia (AKA our Suffolk parents) for housing us at their converted barn.  If you consider a Suffolk getaway, this is an ideal location.

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An extra thank you to Good Things Brewing Co. whose craft beer was a wonderful welcome for our guests.  They are opening the world's most sustainable brewery and on top of everything else they are creating, we hope that many of our favourite bakery's will soon be using their milled grains leftover from the brewing process to make our daily breads.  

A final thank you to all the incredible local producers whose bounty made our Suffolk feasts such a delicious success.

Pump Street BakeryPump Street ChocolateMaple FarmNewbourne FarmPinney's of OrfordFen Farm DairyHigh House Fruit FarmMoat Farm Flowers

All the pictures in this post were taken by Jeremy Coleman.  For more details on any photos please send us an email at info@buildingfeasts.com.