Shime saba - our take on Japanese mackerel
I've always liked pickled herrings, rollmops, anything fishy, sweet, sour and pickled. So it came as no surprise that I developed a taste for shime saba. In essence, shime saba is raw mackerel that has been filleted, salted and then cured in vinegar. The vinegar can be sugared - a la mirin - or plain.
First up was getting hold of the freshest mackered. Proper red-gilled, shiny-eyed, wet-behind-the-ears beauties. Fortunately Fin & Flounder on Broadway Market had a good supply in stock. I filleted these and carefully pin boned them - unfortunately, no photos of this stage as fishy fingers and cameras didn't mix! I also peeled off the outer layer of skin. I was serving this as a starter to share so one mackerel was easily enough for two.
Next up, I put the fillets skin side down on the bamboo strainer and covered them with salt, just a very generous sprinkle so all the flesh was covered. I then left this to cure for thirty to forty minutes before washing off the salt and patting the fillets dry. I then mixed up the vinegar solution in the pickle press, using this keeps the fillets submerged and stops fish juice escaping all over your fridge.
Most people would remember to have a stock of rice wine vinegar before starting cooking; I didn't and so turned to ponzu. I mixed a cup of ponzu with two tablespoons of mirin, although of course you could use rice wine vinegar here and add a little sugar. This was well stirred and the fillets added skin down. I cranked up the press and stuck the whole lot in the fridge for 24 hours.
Make sure to take the mackerel out of the fridge about 30 minutes before serving to allow it to get up to room temperature.
This whole recipe came about due to a glut of rhubarb. Alongside the inevitable crumble, we wanted to serve it with mackerel. After much debate we decided to keep it simple and merely sliced and blanched a couple of stems in a shiso and sugar syrup. Okay, okay, that sounds so more than a little pretentious, the sugar along would have done, we just happened to have some spare shiso.
24 hours later, the mackerel came out of the press. The colour is fairly dark but don't let this put you off. Both the texture and flavour are robust with an underlying sweetness from the mirin. While it hadn't been anywhere near the heat, similar to ceviche the texture changes making this palatable to even sushi-phobes. The rhubarb did the job, adding a tartness that cuts through the fatty fish.
Excuse the slightly haphazard plating, I was hungry. The mackerel lasted mere seconds on the plate before both fillets were gobbled up with a little soy and some wasabi. As simple as is it is delicious, this is certain to become a go-to fish dish round these parts.