Raw mackerel, Lower East Side sours and caraway sour cream


  • Serves 8 - 10 people

"This dish combines flavours found in the delis and corner markets of New York's Lower East Side, which I've adapted for the Australian summer," says Luke Burgess. "Most oily fish can be substituted for the mackerel, bonito in particular. The sours and caraway cream are always great condiments to have in the fridge if you make more than you serve." Begin this recipe three weeks ahead if you plan to pickle the cucumbers yourself.

  • 700 gm blue mackerel (or other oily fish such as bonito), bones removed
  • Lower East Side sours
  • 1 kg pickling cucumbers, unpeeled, blossom end trimmed off (this would taint the pickle)
  • 10 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 small dried hot chillies (such as chillies de árbol), halved lengthwise
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) dill
  • 4 blackcurrant leaves, grape leaves or 1 tbsp black tea leaves (see note)
  • 4 fresh bay leaves
  • 30 gm (1/3 cup) coriander seeds
  • 15 gm (1½ tbsp) allspice berries
  • 15 gm (1½ tbsp) black peppercorns
  • 10 gm (1 tbsp) each yellow mustard seeds and dried dill seeds
  • 60 gm kosher salt
  • 1 litre (4 cups) filtered water
  • Caraway sour cream
  • 20 gm (1½ tbsp) caraway seeds
  • ¾ tsp white pepper
  • 250 gm sour cream
01   For pickles, layer cucumbers in a 2-2½-litre sterilised jar with garlic, chillies, herbs, leaves and spices. Dissolve salt in the filtered water, then pour over cucumbers to submerge completely. Fill a ziplock bag with remaining brine, seal and place in the jar to weigh the cucumbers down, seal with a lid and store in a cool, dark place until small bubbles of carbon dioxide form (4-5 days). Skim residue from surface and rinse the bag of brine and return to jar, seal and set aside in the refrigerate or a dark cool place to pickle until olive green (2 weeks). Remove brine bag and skim remaining residue from surface of the brine, cover and refrigerate until required. Pickles will keep for several months stored at 4C.
02   For caraway sour cream, dry-roast caraway seeds and ¾ tsp fine sea salt over medium heat until toasted (30-60 seconds). Set aside to cool, then grind very finely along with pepper with a mortar and pestle. Whisk cream until smooth, then fold in caraway seasoning and refrigerate until required.
03   Thinly slice mackerel lengthwise after removing the bones, transfer to a large plate and serve with sliced pickles and caraway sour cream.

Note Blackcurrant leaves, which add tannin, are available from select nurseries.

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