Of all the holidays that derive from the brutal killing of Christians at the hand of the Romans, Valentine’s Day is by far my favourite. Love is in the air, not my air obviously, but in other peoples’ I am sure. The romance! The magic! The food! You fall into two categories here, either you are in a couple or you aren’t. The ‘aren’t’ group can be further subdivided into the diehard Bridget Jones singletons who take this as an opportunity to watch He’s just not that into you and talk about how fat they are and the others who go the other way and whore themselves like there is no tomorrow (and depending on who you go home with, there might not be!). I am a lot more ambivalent than that. Sure I love to rant about how it is a consumerist holiday that taints the purity of what it should be celebrating but really I’m a romantic at heart. In truth, I am still bitter since my childhood love, Will Polglass, made my best friend his valentine in year 6. It’s Hannah who got the toy monkey and me who got the legacy of weak self-confidence and hatred of stuffed animals. I have not been the same since. (Love triangles hurt, kids) So here I give you a meal for all those who don’t fancy sitting in Las Iguanas sandwiched between young lovers whispering sweet nothings over their enchiladas.
This meal is the antithesis of every sexy Valentines meal out there. The man-repeller of meals, if you will. It contains no aphrodisiacs. You wouldn’t ever want to eat it off somebody’s body. No-one will want to kiss you after you eat it. Potentially, ever. But know that this meal is a thousand sorts of amazing; it’s is like the mackerel and roasted peppers have taken your taste buds out to a candlelit meal on a riverboat in Paris and they make sweet, sweet love. Let us run through the ingredient list. Fish? Check. Spring onion? Done. The world’s least sexy vegetable, the potato? Of course. Garlic? Oh, I went there! Mackerel doesn’t get nearly enough love. Sure, it smells but the little oily devil is delicious and renowned for its health properties as it’s both an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12. Aldi, the most marvellous place on earth, sells packs of these three cooked mackerel fillets for £1.49 and they come in peppered and lemon and parsley flavours; so frankly, there is no excuse for not trying this out. The mackerel is rich enough on its own, so I’ve kept it light with crunchy green beans and lemon juice to cut the heaviness.
So do yourself a favour and do this Valentine’s Day properly. Whether you are together, alone or anything in between, don’t cry, don’t listen to Johnny Cash, don’t for the love of God watch any film ‘starring’ Jennifer Lopez. Just enjoy the fact that you have people who love you and such a delicious mackerel recipe.
Peppery Mackerel and Potato Salad ‘The Anti-Valentine Meal’
1 peppered mackerel
1 big potato
Handful of green beans
Handful of peas
Half a pepper
Handful of cherry tomatoes
1 spring onion
Chunk of red chilli
2 garlic cloves crushed
Chop the potato into chunks and put into a pan of hot water and leave to bubble. While this is on, chop the tomatoes in half, roughly chop the pepper and crush the garlic with the side of your knife and put on a baking tray. Drizzle in oil and season with salt and pepper and leave to bake at 180.
After 15 minutes throw the green beans, chopped in two, in with the potatoes and peas in the pan and leave until the beans are cooked (roughly 10 minutes), whilst this is cooking chop the spring onion and chilli finely.
Once the potatoes are cooked, drain and put in a big bowl and add the roasted tomatoes, pepper and garlic.
Tear the mackerel into little pieces and mix with the potato mixture. Squeeze over the lemon juice, add the chilli and onion, a little more oil and then eat.