Smoked mackerel and green beans (Nigel Slater)

mackerel with cream and green beans

“The cream will soak up the smoky flavours of the mackerel”: Nigel Slater’s midweek dinner of mackerel and green beans. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer

The recipe

Pour 450ml of double cream into a saucepan, season with coarsely ground black pepper and add a couple of bay leaves, then warm over a moderate heat. Once the cream is almost at the boil, break 350g of smoked mackerel into large pieces and drop into the cream. Simmer for a couple of minutes then turn off the heat. During this time the cream will soak up the smoky flavours of the mackerel. Top and tail 250g of green beans and blanch in boiling salted water. Drain the beans and toss in with the cream and mackerel. Warm gently, season thoughtfully and serve. Enough for 2.

The trick

Whole smoked mackerel is more creamy-fleshed and moist than the fillets. But use whatever you can. Keep the pieces of fish large and heat gently in the cream with as little stirring as possible – you don’t want to crush the fish.

The twist

The cream can be infused with other flavours, such as a few sprigs of thyme, a tablespoon or two of chopped dill, some tarragon leaves or even chervil. Mustard is a fine addition, too. Especially the grainy sort. A little lemon juice can be good as well. Swap the beans for sautéed courgette strips or slivers of carrots, steamed. Try adding some lightly cooked spinach. Some sort of pasta, pappardelle perhaps, cooked, drained and added with the beans, might be good for introducing some carbs to your supper.

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