Mackay’s Memories Of North Norfolk Mackerel & Mussel Boil ‘N’ Braise

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This is my memory stew; a combination of seafood stories to light up my meals at Jess’s Jolly Sailor Cottage on the Norfolk coast.

I go beach fishing often but I’ve only ever caught one mackerel and I did so while an old man 5 metres to my left caught thirty. I also hooked a sand eel in the tail as it swam past, but I’m not sure if that counts. I buy the mussels down a little lane between Wells and Cley where they leave bags on a rickety shelf and you pay into an honesty box. In summer they have lobster, crab and samphire. Jolly Sailor’s neighbours have two boats and gave me a big bag of brown shrimp one year, but these are tricky to get hold of so I’ve replaced them with prawns so the shrimp are not missed but they would be welcomed back.

If you can get some, pop them in on top of the mackerel and you have another step towards an entirely Norfolk Bouillabaisse.

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From Delia's Food and Wine Workshop, recipe by Alex Mackay. Serves 2

  • method
  • Ingredients


1.  Start with the potatoes. Boil your kettle. Put a colander in your sink. Fill a medium saucepan with boiling water. Add salt. Bring back to the boil.

Add the sliced potatoes. Bring back to the boil. Turn the heat to medium. Lift the lid so that it sits slightly ajar. Simmer for 11 minutes or until tender. Drain in the colander.

2.  While the potatoes simmer, get a large shallow pan. Add the onion, garlic, carrot and 4 tbsp water. Cover. Sweat over a medium heat for 7 minutes. Check twice. Add more water if the pan starts to dry out. Add the tomato puree. Stir it in well. Add 200ml of water. Bring to the boil. Boil for 30 seconds.   

3.  Add the potatoes in a single layer. Scatter the mussels over the top in a single layer. Cover. Bring to the boil. Boil for 1-2 minutes or until the mussels open enough for you to see the flesh inside; it really does happen this quickly.

4.  Push the mussels to the edges of pan but don’t move the potatoes.

5.  Season the mackerel and prawns. Put the mackerel and prawns on top of the potatoes in a single layer. Dab the butter over everything. Cover. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down low the second it does. Poach for 3 minutes. Check, the mackerel will be just cooked through. Cover the pan. Turn off the heat.  Leave to sit for 2 minutes.

Sprinkle over the parsley, put the lid back on.  Serve at the table and lift the lid off for a scent of my memories.  

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