Monday, 2 April 2012

Blackened Mackerel & Miso Sandwich

I was in two minds about whether to write about this sandwich. Goddamn it was hard work. It was a labour of love, something that I've pursued doggedly for the past two months. It cost me a lot of money and a lot of effort and yet when making it, I still had no idea how it would taste until I first sunk my teeth into it.

The recipe was from the 2nd edition of Lucky Peach, a food quarterly written by David Chang and Peter Meehan. Call me a Momofuku fan girl and it's true; I am a huge fan. My first stumbling block was in the blackening spice. It called for Grains of Paradise (below); what? Aframomum melegueta, a spice of the ginger family. Fine, there are shops online that sell it. Pure tomato powder? Also tricky, but not impossible. Chang's recommended shop sells both but ships to the US only, so I managed to combine this with my New Year New York trip.

But what's this, KONBU POWDER? Good lord. A spice grinder was purchased. It was no easy feat, the toasting and grinding of 6 different spices, and then dry roasting a piece of konbu seaweed too, before grinding it into oblivion. At one point I cursed the day I set eyes on the recipe.

Bluefish. What is bluefish? Not something I'd seen before at the fishmongers. I wearily swapped in mackerel instead, beautiful shiny fillets glimmering with freshness.

Finally I could set about making my sandwich. The only thing left to do was to make the miso mayonnaise. It was described as 'one of the standout parts of the dish' so, you know, it was quite essential. Of course when I got to making the mayonnaise the bloody thing split and I, arm limp from constant whisking, had to chuck it all away and start again. Even an extra egg yolk wouldn't save this demonic sauce. I gritted my teeth and got to it.

Bread toasted, miso mayo smeared, gherkins balanced carefully atop the shredded lettuce and mackerel slid on top, AT LAST. I took a glorious bite and then it was all worth it. The fish was spicy and crispy and moist, the grains of paradise giving it a little lemony tartness. The miso mayo was nutty, rich and luxurious. The pillowy ciabatta held it's bounty well, pickles snapping under the teeth and the lettuce cooling the mouth. Thank Christ.

I watched my housemates devour theirs, all beady-eyed like a hawk for their reactions. This was my baby. I was too attached to make an informed decision.

"That was freaking delicious."

And then I realised I'd forgotten about the potato chips, also dredged in blackening spice and layered into the middle of the sandwich. !*&%!

For the sandwich

Serves 4

1 loaf of ciabatta
4 mackerel fillets
A couple handfuls of shredded Iceberg lettuce
4 pickled cucumbers (I bought these, dill pickles. Chang includes a recipe to make them. No way man.)

Slice the loaf into 4 sandwich sizes. Split in half, smear with butter and grill inside up to toast. Meanwhile dredge the mackerel fillets in the spice mix and fry on both sides for 2 - 3 mins in hot oil.

Smear the toasted bread with the miso mayo. Add shredded lettuce, then the gherkin and the fish fillets. Place the other side of bread on top and slice in half to serve. The recipe also recommends making crisps and then sprinkling them in the blackening spice. I forgot and it was still awesome.

Blackening Spice

Enough to make this recipe a couple of times

This is in teaspoons, tablespoons and cups. Sorry. I know we don't use cups but I forgot to convert them.

3 tbsp grains of paradise
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seed
4 tbsp mustard seeds (the yellow kind)
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp whole allspice
1/4 cup of ground konbu - cut a sheet of konbu up into small pieces and then toast in a dry frying pan. You'll need more seaweed than you think. Grind to a fine powder once cooled.
3 tbsp onion powder
6 tbsp cayenne powder
1/4 cup of tomato powder
1/2 cup sweet Spanish smoked paprika

Toast and grind the whole spices, then mix with everything else.

Miso Mayo

1 egg yolk
250ml neutral oil
2 tbsp white miso
1 tbsp cider vinegar
A pinch of salt

Use your best mayonnaise making technique and add the miso. I won't tell you mine because it failed once. Chang recommends a food processor, pureeing the egg yolk while adding the oil in a slow steady stream. Add the miso and vinegar and pulse to combine.


PDH said...

My god that looks like a good sandwich!

tehbus said...

You are one crazy committed lady

Shu Han said...

that's a lot of crazy work for a sandwich. but worth it i see!

Tiff said...


Chris Pople said...

I think this is actually *better* than Chang's version because I've tried Bluefish (it's a North Atlantic sports fish, v common but a bit muddy tasting) and Mackerel is nicer. TAKE THAT CHANG!

Jonathan said...

Bang! What an amazing sandwich. Good to see so much effort paying off.

ginandcrumpets said...

Wow, I salute your commitment to sandwich nirvana. It does sound pretty bloody good.

ginandcrumpets said...

Wow, I salute your commitment to sandwich nirvana. It does sound pretty bloody good.

Smudge said...


William Leigh said...

Lol can't believe you forgot the crisps

Food Urchin said...

I don't think I could walk into a shop and say aframomum melegueta, let alone find a place to buy it.

Top marks for making what looks like a supreme sandwich Lizzie.

gourmet traveller said...

awesome effort! now can you please sell us some of that blackening spice so I can make one? ;)

Hero said...

Wow. That is all I can say. Wow.

S said...

truly is a labour of love- how was the tomato powder? and the grains of paradise? do you think you'd use them in other dishes? epic sandwich. x s

Hollow Legs said...

Paul - it was pretty bloody good.

EuWen - I know - Obsessed.

Shu Han - Yes, it was very hard work indeed!

Tiff - I know - maybe I'm unhinged...

Chris - IN YO' FACE CHANG! (not really. I love you. I do.)

Jonathan - From the Sandwichist himself that is high praise. Thanks!

G&C - Thank you. It was worth the effort.

Smudge - innit

William Leigh - :(

FU - Every time I attempt it, it goes like this in my head: "afro-mahumhmhmhmhmhmhm". Thanks!

Gourmet traveller - Sure thing :)

Hero - Thanks. I hope/

S - indeed! I haven't tasted it on it's own, but it certainly does add a tang. I haven't earmarked them for anything else but I will be blackening a lot of fish, oh i will!

J@Feasttotheworld said...

When I first read the title, I thought it's a simple chargrilled mackerel sandwich. But as I read on, all that hardwork and all those unusual ingredients. Your dedication to this is truly admirable. It looks and sound delicious too :)

Blonde said...

Bloody hell. That's commitment to the sandwich cause right there. Am suitably impressed.

(You're going to ask Pret to start stocking, right?!)

Hollow Legs said...

J - thank you! I am nothing if not stubborn.

Blonde - Thanks! Yes, Pret would do this very well, I'd imagine (burghhh...)

Helen said...


Anonymous said...

Big up the Mack! That looks very good indeed. I have just watched Great British Menu; it had Black Mac on it.
I also had a Mack bap with horseradish (Hugh Fearnley Whitingstalls Fish Fight Campaign).
Yours looks the best!!!

AJ said...

Looks immense, can't wait to try. You can get grains of paradise from Magali @ Spice Mountain in Borough Market!!!!

Anonymous said...

helpfull comment AJ. Off I go now to find out what they are. That said my next Borough Mrkt. trip is some time away, mail order here we come.