This is from William Verral again, landlord of the White Hart Inn in Lewes in Susses, and a bit of a Jamie Oliver. He trained under a fancy French chef, M. Clouet, and his lovely, fresh recipes burn with a passion to get his compatriots eating ‘garden things’ and not throwing away good food that families ‘would leap mast high at’.
I have had mixed success with Verral - one of my earliest blogs was about the disaster that was his strawberry fritters, but I have been waiting a whole year to make this delicious, fresh sounding mackerel dish.
Only it isn’t really. I can imagine it on a contemporary menu; crisp skinned and oil-rich fish on a sharp slick of gooseberry sauce and aniseedy fennel for feathery elegance. The trouble is, I think, that our tastes have changed so much. It is very common for old recipes to boil or simmer up everything together; here its fish, wine, fennel, green (spring) onions, parsley followed by scalded gooseberries. The fish end up swimming in a thin sauce, bumping into blobs of gooseberries; the skin is stuck on to flesh which is solid, rather than that lovely delicate/meaty texture it gets under the grill. It is all a bit of a big, sweet mess.
Here it is, cooking not very merrily away, in a black pan. William Verral laughs at a neighbour and client who want him to cook a meal to die for in their kitchen, equipped just with “one pan as black as my hat”. Which is essentially what I used here, so maybe it really is the problem with the tools not the workmanship.