Giddy with excitement from rumours that there might be a glimpse of sunshine in the east, we drove down to the North Kent coast for a spot of camping. Cursory research led us to ‘Seaview Holiday Park’ in a small town called Swalecliffe midway between Whitstable and Herne Bay.
After pitching the tent and checking out the facilities, we ambled along the coast to Whitstable in search of a salty seaside pub and the ingredients for dinner. There is a fantastic fish market of great repute in the harbour where we picked up a handsome pair of very fresh mackerel. Down the high street a less renowned Somerfield supplied us with the other bits we needed. And then over the road to Thresher’s for the oft savoured 3 for 2 wines. Work done we retired to a breakwater on the beach outside the Whitstable Brewery Bar for a few pre-dinner sharpeners. The raspberry wheat beer was rather good being dry, yet tasting of raspberry in an appropriate way.
One of the pleasures of camping is cooking outdoors, the major challenge being to come up with something tasty (which remains hot in all its constituent parts) using only one gas stove and whatever cooking equipment you remembered to throw in the boot of the car. On this occasion we improvised a Fish, Tomato and Potato dish which could conveniently be made in one pan.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Skill level: Easy
- 2 fresh mackerel (filleted) or a fish of your choice
- handful of small potatoes thinly sliced (5mm/14 pixels)
- tin of cherry tomatoes
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 star anise
- ½ lemon
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
Lightly fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil, then add the tomatoes, bay leaves and star anise. When simmering, season and add the potatoes and a wedge of lemon. Cover and simmer for a further 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are just cooked. You will occasionally have to add a little water to make up for any evaporation.
Now lay the mackerel fillets (skin-side down) on top of the potato, add a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of sea salt and cover. Continue to cook until the fish is ready. This should take about 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets.
Serve immediately with a green salad.
Verdict: This turned out to be very tasty indeed. The fish was firm and moist and the potatoes had absorbed the flavours from the sauce. The star anise gave it a slight background flavour of aniseed which worked well with the mackerel. And we were outside so it tasted even better.
Drink: 2 bottles of Thresher’s finest red (the third was left out of arm’s reach for reasons of extreme puritanism).
Entertainment: Watching everyone else eating their dinner and later being utterly jealous when the family across from us starting toasting marshmallows. Note to self: Things to pack next camping trip – tent, duvet, marshmallows …