Ringing the Changes with Indian-style Smacked Mack (aka Smoked Mackerel Pâté)

“That’s a mackerel fillet, the skin charred, alongside a soft mackerel pâté with discs of pickled cucumber and a gentle horseradish cream. It’s the humble mackerel displayed to the very best of its advantage.”

Jay Raynor, The Guardian

Smoked mackerel pâté is another (see Classic ’60s menu) blast from the ’60s and ’70s past, named ‘Smacked Mack’ at a restaurant in Battersea which various boyfriends took me to named ‘Toad Hall’. Whoever wrote the menu at that themed restaurant must have had a mind at the same time devilish, at the same time childish.

If it’s a hot day, you might like to consider serving this with an ice-cold aniseed-based spirit, such as raki.

How you can ring the changes with smoked mackerel pâté

The Indian naan bread with this, traditionally rather straight-laced, British pâté may seem incongruous, but it works elegantly.

Mrs Beeton mentions a fennel sauce with mackerel and the dill and this recipe is along the same lines as hers. Dill is also a traditional Scandinavian herb to use with this fish.

My friend Jacqui, along the lines of the Woodspeen dish described in the quote at the top of this page, adds LOTS of horseradish sauce into the pâté to give it a spicy kick and she serves it with pickled walnuts and bacon bits. The pickled walnuts are for those made of sterner stuff than I, but bacon or lardons are definitely a good addition.

You used to be able to buy a rather good mackerel and gooseberry pâté from Waitrose. Alas, no longer. Instead, you could cheat and buy ready-made smoked mackerel pâté and pair it with gooseberry sauce.

Chef Tom Kitchen serves his smacked mack on lightly pickled cucumber rounds: Boil 500 ml of water with 100g of sugar, 100 ml of white wine vinegar and a couple of bay leaves and sprigs of thyme. Make sure the sugar has dissolved and then allow to cool. Transfer to a non-metallic bowl and cut in 350g of cucumber rounds. Leave for a couple of hours and then chill in the fridge for at least an hour – they will keep there for a couple of days.

Recommended pairing from a reader in Portugal – Noilly Prat!

At the De Nederlanden (which is, of course, in The Netherlands) as an amuse bouche they serve smoked mackerel pâté in baby ice cream cornets, topped with a beetroot-flavoured cream cheese. I made a sketch from memory on the menu, because I don’t really approve of people taking photographs of food in restaurants.

smoked mackerel pate recipe
The amuse bouches sketched at the De Nederlanden restaurant…. little cornets of smoked mackerel pâté, presented in a specially made block of wood, topped with beetroot flavoured cream cheese.

So if you want to add a bit of visual pep to your smoked mackerel pâté, with considerably less effort, you could top with a little cream cheese, and sprinkle over some crushed beetroot crisps.

For how to make your own, dead-easy horseradish sauce follow this link.

For how to make a gooseberry sauce, follow this link.

Recipe for smoked mackerel pâté

Serves 6


  • 4 tsp sesame seeds
  •  450g/8 oz smoked mackerel fillets (skinned and flaked)
  • 4 or 5 inches (10 cm) of cucumber cut into dice
  • 340g/12 oz (two packs) cream cheese
  • 4 tbsp cranberry sauce
  • 8 tbsp/½ cup crème fraiche
  • 2 tbsp chopped dill (and some to garnish)
  • zest of two lemons
  • plain naan bread (about half a big leaf per person)
  • smoked salt and Indonesian black pepper


  1. Mix the mackerel and the cucumber, season thoughtfully.
  2. Add the cream cheese, cranberry sauce, lemon zest and dill.

This post is dedicated to Jacqui Eggar.

Music to cook to

OK, so it is pushing it a bit…. well, OK, so it’s pushing it a LOT. But how about ‘I believe in mackerels, where do you come from, you sexy thing????’

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