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What My Mother Taught Me: Rick Stein’s childhood food memories

by Julia Pal

published on 19 March 2014

In a touching extract from his memoir, Under A Mackerel Sky, Rick Stein reminisces about the food cooked by his mother when he was a child. Her fish cakes are still the best he has ever tasted.

“Fishing off the rocks we never caught much more than wrasse and pollack. The wrasse were gorgeously coloured; deep red, orange, yellow and sometimes green or golden-hued, but tasted of nothing. The Pollack were always the same colour, a silver belly and brown back and large, dark blue eyes. My dad and I would take the fish back to the house where the wrasse were treated with little enthusiasm by my mother. She left them till they were starting to smell, I think to make me feel better about it, then threw them out into the springy cliff grass for the gulls. The Pollack she made into fish cakes, often with mackerel, which were ever-present due to the almost daily boat-fishing trips. All the cooking I’ve ever done since is in some way an attempt to recapture some of the flavours of the cooking at home when I was a boy. Those Pollack fish cakes with mashed potatoes, parsley, salt, pepper and dazzlingly fresh mackerel, just put under the grill with a sprig of fennel, are still the best I’ve ever eaten.”

Mackeral fish cakes | Rick Stein

Recipe: Rick Stein’s own version of his mother’s mackerel fish cakes.

Read: Rick Stein’s boarding school memories.

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