Date Stuffed Mackerel | Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons

The last time I went to the Bullring Indoor Market was probably circa 1993. My nan used to love shopping there for fish, meat and huge bags of pork scratchings. I can remember taking the escalator down into the busy, dark and pungent market, feeling a little overwhelmed by bellowing traders and by how much there was to see.

The redevelopment of the Bullring area means it’s all very different to how I remember it as a child.

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I’ll be honest, compared to the ultra sterile conditions of a supermarket that I’ve become accustomed to, the reality of a busy working market was a little disconcerting at first. But the range of fish on offer was fantastic. I was after mackerel.

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Scanning my many, many cookbooks (138 at my last count) I suddenly realised I had two copies of Diana Henry’s Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons!! One paperback, one hardback. I can just picture myself in the shop now, analysing the cover, thinking ‘I’m sure I don’t already have that one’ – oops!

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With two copies, I thought it was probably about time I cooked from them!

The mackerel would be used to make Date Stuffed Mackerel with Spicy Broth and Couscous.  A Moroccan dish, Diana Henry describes it as ‘fantastically exotic – deep, dark and spicy’.

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Although I’m familiar with the sweet within savoury concept, I’m not always a fan. I can’t BEAR sultanas in the retro classic coronation chicken. So I was apprehensive at the list of stuffing ingredients including a large amount of dates,  almonds and mint.  However, I have never cooked a Diana Henry recipe and been disappointed, so I gave it a go.

I wasn’t expecting to be squeamish about handling the fish, but I was a little! I realised that I’d never actually held a whole fish before, or eaten one for that matter. And there was something about him (I’m presuming it was a ‘he’, I mean how do tell with a fish?) looking up at me, as I rinsed him under the running tap, that put me off a bit.

Stuffed and rubbed with olive oil, ginger and cinnamon, they went into the oven.

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They came out looking glorious.  Crisp skin, moist flesh and they smelt AMAZING.

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Served with couscous, and ladles of spicy broth: it tasted very exotic, and unlike anything that I’d tried before. Sat eating this outdoors in the sunshine, we were transported. It felt as if we were eating on holiday, in a little local restaurant somewhere off the beaten track. It was delicious.

The filling was very sweet and sticky, but I loved it! It worked superbly with the oily mackerel. Maybe I should stop picking the sultanas out of my coronation chicken from now on.

competition

I don’t really need two copies of this book! So for a chance to win the paperback copy, all you need to do is follow me on twitter @letseatfirst and look out for the competition details.

The winner will be chosen at random on the 30th April 2015, and notified directly on twitter. Good luck!

 

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