I love slow cooking: I love pots of braising meat steaming up windows for hours on end, or a bread dough sitting on the side leisurely proving. I’m quite happy to start a cooking project that I know will take a couple of days to complete, one that requires resting or chilling or simmering and then a sharp burst in a hot oven. But sometimes, slow cooking is neither desirable nor possible. Sometimes, I’m out all day, or I don’t want to be watching or a boiling pot, or I simply can’t be bothered. Sometimes, it’s Sunday night, and the thought of chopping an onion or turning on the oven is insurmountable. And on those occasions I want something quick and easy, but I don’t want to compromise on flavour or satisfaction. Modern life is busy, too busy really, and feeding ourselves is easily forgotten under other priorities.
But this mackerel pâté is the work of moments: no cooking, no waiting, just all the ingredients whizzed together in a food processor. And barely any washing up! The horseradish brings heat and pairs perfectly with the smoked mackerel. It’s also a great make-ahead, if you’re looking for an easy starter that will impress your guests, and will sit happily in the fridge for a couple of days.
It’s best eaten on oatcakes, I think, with cornichons or thin ribbons of pickled carrot and cucumber, but is also great thickly spread on slices of hot toast.
Makes: 2 ramekins of pâté (enough for 6 people as a starter)
Takes: 5 minutes
Bakes: No time at all
250g smoked mackerel
1 tablespoon hot, creamed horseradish
100g crème fraîche
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh parsley
1. Pull the flesh from the mackerel away from its skin and discard the skins. Put the mackerel, crème fraîche and horseradish into a small food processor. Grate in the lemon zest, using a microplane or the finest grade you have on a grater. Juice the lemon and add that too.
2. Blitz the mixture until mostly smooth: you may need to stop the blender, scrape down the sides, and manipulate the mixture to get it all to the same texture.
3. Add the chopped parsley and give the pate a final whizz to distribute the herbs evenly. Decant into ramekins and serve, or chill and cover with clingfilm, ensuring that the clingfilm touches the pâté so that there are no air gaps.