I love classic French food. By this, I don’t necessarily mean the complicated chef-standard haute cuisine (although that is also delicious), but rather the bistro classics, the kinds of things you find in small restaurants in the middle of Brittany. I’m a huge fan of crêpes and galettes, their savoury buckwheat counterparts, and have always felt welcomed in these small restaurants, with their reassuring menus of magrets de canard and crème brulée.
When I was hunting for a way of using up some cider vinegar, I came across a recipe in Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat that I remember being drawn to about a decade ago when I first got the book, but never got round to making. Mackerel in cider is, according to Nigella, a culinary tradition from Normandy, and although I don’t recall eating this in France, the recipe reminded me so much of that sort of food. Normandy is, of course, a classic apple-producing region, and I associate it with tarte aux pommes, Calvados and, of course, cider.
This was a great recipe – quick enough to cook on a weeknight and a good way of making fish a bit more interesting than just frying it. You oven cook mackerel fillets in cider, then reduce the resulting cooking liquid in a pan, adding cream (or, to make it more authentically French, crème fraîche), with a squeeze of lemon juice to taste at the end. Rather than lemon juice, I substituted cider vinegar. This is a wonderful change to smoked mackerel – the strong-tasting fish stands up really well to the cider. It would be great served with crusty bread and some spinach to soak up the rest of the sauce. This was a fantastic reminder of the delights of regional French food.