Wine & Food Killers: Mackerel with Herb Salad and Crispy Sumac Potatoes and Constantina Sotelo Rosalía

As I’m writing this, false spring has been and gone. You know the one: That tricksy week in February or March that’s so golden and sun-drenched it swindles us into believing that winter is well and truly over. This happens every year, and we should know better. But after months of confinement, what else is there to do but indulge in a bit of hope?

The sun and warmth stuck around just long enough to convince me that it was right to open the windows, wear lighter layers than was probably advisable and linger over tubs of cut fruit in the supermarket. I even slipped my sunglasses into my bag! In that brief period of reprieve, I also reached for a bottle of Constantina Sotelo’s Rosalía – a white wine made from 100% Albariño grapes, which hails from the Rias Baixas region of Galicia.

Thick-skinned Albariño is well-adapted to the drenching fronts that roll in off the Atlantic in this northwestern corner of Spain, and while I’ve also had wines that showcase Albariño’s floral, peachy side, this bottle is all electric verve. The grape’s high acidity is notable, alongside a citrusy character and distinctly briny edge that make me feel like I really am just metres from crashing waves and salt spray.

With travel next to impossible and ill-advisable for the time being, a holiday in a glass is a good way to go. To round out the experience, I paired Rosalía with a simple, similarly fresh and ebullient seafood dish. With its lemon-grapefruit bite and salinity, the wine is a natural alongside an oily fish like mackerel.
Here, I’ve adapted a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi in New York Times Cooking that sees the fish cut into fillets (or butterflied, as I did), rubbed in cardamom and salt, and cooked hot and fast. Alongside, a lime, herb and pistachio salad adds toasty crunch and yet more vibrancy, as well as a good dollop of ginger-garlic yoghurt.

Since mackerel is on the petite side, I made crispy sumac potatoes to round things out. The potatoes are left unpeeled, sliced into the thinnest of coins, coated with oil and salt, then thrown under the grill. No need to parboil them or do anything more complicated than that: they emerge golden and crisp, but still a little tender – almost halfway between crisps and chips. 

This dish isn’t fish and chips, but it is fish and potatoes together on vacation in high summer, somewhere where the sea is close enough to smell and the wine is abundant. For now, I’ll take it.

Mackerel with Herb Salad and Crispy Sumac Potatoes
Adapted from New York Times Cooking
Serves 2

For the mackerel:
2 mackerel, cleaned and butterflied
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cardamom
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the herb salad:
75g pistachios (shelled)
30g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
30g fresh basil, roughly chopped
2 mild-to-medium-hot green chillis, thinly sliced
2 limes
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon cardamom
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste

For the yoghurt sauce:
150g Greek-style yoghurt
½ teaspoon minced garlic (preferably from a jar)
1 teaspoon minced ginger (preferably from a jar)
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste

For the sumac potatoes:
4 medium potatoes (Maris Piper or similar)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste
1 tablespoon sumac

For the couscous:
50g pine nuts
250g couscous
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
50g sultanas
30g (2 tablespoons) butter
350ml just-boiled chicken or vegetable stock
Fine sea salt, to taste

1.First, prep the mackerel. Using tweezers, remove any pin bones in the butterflied fillets. In a ramekin or small bowl, mix together the salt and cardamom and season both sides of the fish evenly. Set aside until ready to cook.

2. Next, prepare the herb salad. Add the pistachios to a small frying pan and toast over medium heat, tossing frequently, for 3-5 minutes, or until golden-brown and fragrant. Leave to cool for a few minutes before roughly chopping. Add to a bowl, alongside the chopped coriander, basil and chillis. Add the zest of two limes – retain the lime halves for later – plus the olive oil, cardamom and a pinch of sea salt. Toss to combine.

3. Next, make the yoghurt sauce. In a small bowl, add the yoghurt, garlic, ginger and a generous pinch of flaky sea salt (jarred garlic and ginger are actually preferable here, as they will incorporate better with the yoghurt, but fresh can also be used). Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

4.Prepare the potatoes. Wash and dry them, though don’t worry about peeling them. Using a knife, slice into thin rounds – as thin as you can, around half an inch. Line a large baking sheet with foil and drizzle over a little bit of olive oil to coat; add the potato slices in a single layer and drizzle over more olive oil, until they’re evenly and lightly coated (you may need to cook the potatoes in two batches). Season lightly with salt.

5. Heat your oven’s grill to medium-high. Grill the potatoes for roughly 5-8 minutes on one side, or until turning golden brown. Using tongs or a spatula, flip and lightly season the reverse sides. Grill for 3-5 minutes further, or until golden. Remove from the grill and season generously with sumac. Repeat with the second batch if necessary. To keep warm, you can leave the cooked potatoes uncovered in the oven at 100° Celsius (212° Fahrenheit).

6. Finally, cook the mackerel. Place a large frying pan over high heat and add the olive oil. Once hot, add the mackerel fillets, skin-side down. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip and cook on the reverse for 1 minute, or until golden.

7. To serve, share the mackerel, herb salad, potatoes and yoghurt sauce between two plates. Squeeze one lime half over each portion of salad and another over each butterflied mackerel.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer and wine hound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen. Don’t miss out on Claire’s wine and food pairings, which go out every month in our Natural Wine Killers subscription bo