Mackerel is a beautiful and quite easy to handle a fish. The one I buy has beautiful blue patterns on a soft, scale – free skin and no sticky disgusting mucus covering some fish species. I must also add the mackerel is one of the healthiest fish species. It is very high in omega 3 acids, apparently not endangered and it is often the cheapest item at the fishmonger’s. Even though this fish is widely appreciated in Japan, in many Western countries only smoked and canned form of mackerel is known. Even though I am a curious person (especially when it comes to food products), I am particularly cautious with fish experiments, since, badly prepared, they can easily end up inedible. Mackerel is quite a recent guest in my kitchen and for a long time I used to simply fry quickly the fillets. That was before I learnt about the Japanese simmering in miso method.
As a reminder, miso (味噌) is a thick paste and it has three main colour types: white (shiromiso), red (akamiso), black (kuromiso), and also mixed miso (awasemiso). In general, the lighter the colour, the more delicate it tastes. There are myriads of different misos, depending on the brand, the ingredients, the region… Even my small Japanese grocery shop in Switzerland carries many miso varieties, most of which I haven’t tasted yet. Miso is very healthy, packed with protein, vitamins and minerals. It is however important to choose it with a lesser amount of salt, otherwise it is no longer very healthy and may be difficult to cook (the miso’s coulour doesn’t have anything to to with its saltiness, my black miso being the least salty of all). Miso soup is usually the first dish in which foreigners discover this Japanese staple. I find miso’s flavour highly addictive, probably because it is rich in the umami, or fifth taste, made famous by a Japanese professor.
Mackerel Simmered in Miso (Saba no miso ni サバの味噌に) is a very popular dish from the nimono, or “simmering dishes” family, very badly known side of the Japanese cuisine (at least in Western countries). It is a pure delight and one of the most surprising outcomes of all the cooking experiments I have ever made. Following the recipe from No Recipes website, I simmered firs my mackerel with all the bones. According to the author they should soften so much that the fish can be eaten whole. Since I haven’t used the advised pressure cooker, at my first attempt the bigger bones were still too tough after four hours of slow simmering. A couple of days afterwards I removed the spinal bone and other big bones (it was actually quite easy!). The result was much better, even though the fish didn’t keep its shape as well as before.
In short, either you have a pressure cooker or I would advise removing the biggest bones. Actually I think even fillets cut up into pieces would make a delicious meal. Even though this long simmering method seems more adapted to cold days, it is definitely not a heavy dish and I would recommend it even in the Summer. I have slightly modified the ingredients’ amounts. It went perfectly well with thin decorative strips of ramsons (wild garlic, read more about this plant here).
Preparation: 2 1/2 – 3 hours
Ingredients (serves 2):
about 800 g gutted mackerel, heads removed
5 tablespoons mirin (sweet cooking sake)
5 tablespoons sake
3 cm piece of ginger, grated or finely chopped
1 shallot (finely chopped or sliced)
1 clove garlic, crushed
5 heaped tablespoons red or white miso
250 ml water
Cut the mackerel into 2-3 cm thick chunks (you can remove the bigger bones).
In a pressure cooker (or a simple pot) bring to boil the sake, the mirin, the garlic, the ginger and the shallot.
Let it boil for 2 minutes.
Add the water, the miso and stir well.
Add the mackerel.
If using a pressure cooker, set it to the highest temperature and let the fish simmer for 45 minutes.
If using a simple pot, cover it with a lid and simmer the fish on low heat for at least 2 1/2 hours.
Serve it with rice and a spicy salad (the Spicy Mustard Salad on No Recipes looks perfect, although I haven’t tried it yet).
I sprinkled it with thin strips of wild garlic (ramsons).