Writers block and smoking

It happens too often. I think I’m on a roll and then it all grinds to a halt. This time for over six months. One problem is lack of discipline – rather annoyingly, discipline is something I had plenty of when I was 14 and when it wasn’t cool to have it. Now I have none it seems.

And as I think about it, the problem isn’t entirely about my laziness, in fact it’s not even my fault –  it’s the shorts – they are the ones to blame. And the reason is very simple – that despite their unequalled faculty for adventure and imagination in so many aspects of their lives (monsters under the bed, imaginary friends, sticks=guns, etc), they seem to have absolutely none when it comes to food.

And so it is that week after week I’m commanded to trot out the same old dishes that I wrote about over two years ago in this very journal. And they won’t let me try anything new. I’ve tried believe me. Every week I beg them to let me feed them something new. Something simple and tasty. Something that’s not Friday Night Pasta. And it’s not like I’m presenting them with a blowfish or pig’s trotters. I’m talking really basic stuff here – Am I expecting too much?

What adds to the frustration is the fact that they are not born this way – The smallest of the shorts is the most adventurous (he’s a big fish-eater is William) but I see him descending into a bisto gravy of food apathy just like the other two, slowly but surely, week by week. Any day now he’s going to refuse to eat mushrooms and all will be lost. I dread the moment…

I know I shouldn’t fret. I’m confident that in just a few years my kids’ culinary promiscuity will take a slow but definite U-turn back towards the light – I’m just not sure I can wait that long before I put another recipe on here…

Anyway – the good news is that the one thing that I can still cook for William (not the others sadly) is smoked mackerel. And I found out the other the day that the best way to get smoked mackerel is to do it yourself. It’s really really good, and not at all difficult. All you need is a saw, a random bit of wood (preferably from a tree, not an old Ikea table), a large old pan with a lid and a vegetable steamer. And a couple of very fresh mackerel.

Smoking Mackerel

So, take your wood (I use an old branch from a tree in the garden – fruit trees are especially good) and saw off very thin slices, making sure you capture all the saw dust for the pan (I put the pan under the saw and it just drops straight in). Once you have enough wood chips and sawdust to lightly cover the bottom of the pan, you’re done. Now put the steamer in the pan and place the mackerel, gutted and with heads and tails removed if they don’t fit neatly in the pan. Put the pan on the hob under a high heat with the lid off until the wood starts smoking, then lower the heat and put the lid on. Leave it like this on the heat for about 20 minutes and then turn off the hob. After another few minutes, you can take them out and they are ready to use. And they are lovely – sweet and very lightly smoked with just a hint of colour – nothing like the radioactive jobs they sell in the supermarket. I’d recommend two ways of eating them. For both, I start by removing the fillets from the bones with your fingers. They should pull away with very little effort (if they don’t you may not have cooked them for long enough). The simplest route now is to gently fry the fillets in butter and eat them with buttered toast and a cup of Earl Grey (no milk). Alternatively, use my smoked mackerel pate recipe.

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