It isn't every day that you meet a hairy biker. No, I don't mean some random Hell's Angel with excess hair. I mean one of THE original and one and only Hairy Bikers, Mr Simon King. I was chuffed to bits to bump into Simon on Saturday as I was leaving my show at the Journal Taste North East England Food and Drink Festival at Gibside in Rowlands Gill. And what lovely bloke he is, every inch the warm and happy fella you see on their TV show.
The whole point of the day was to highlight what I have been singing about for ages now; that up here in the chilly North East, we have some amazing small producers supplying unbelievably good food and drink. Without sounding like the down-trodden northerner, I do think that we suffer a little when it comes to National recognition for great food and drink production. But thanks to The Journal, our flagship newspaper, the event was a huge success with thousands of people coming out to see what all the fuss was about.
I was first to present and I actually thought that the looming dark clouds and early start may have given me one man and a dog to present to. I was astounded to see a packed marquee full of food loving people who were happy to see me chirping on for half an hour. Young fennel and Seahouses kippers were the order of the day on a variation of my orange, mustard and saffron braised fennel. I love to see people smiling and realising how easy it is to cook something that may at first seem like a complicated recipe or a confusing taste combination. I was told that within an hour, my friend Sandy Higson of the brilliant Coquet Valley Preserves had sold out of her English Mustard with Newcastle Brown Ale. Happy days.
Here is a quick fish and fennel recipe that entails minimum fuss and maximum flavour. It is great with buttery boiled potatoes and greens. And if you see a Hairy Biker, one of the originals, give them a shout. You will be assured of a big cuddle and a warm smile.
Baked Mackerel with Fennel, Apple and Cider
2 mackerels, filleted
1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly lengthways
2 apples, peeled and cut into slices
150ml dry cider
2 tbsp cider vinegar
Salt and pepper
1 - Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C, GM6.
2 - Put the cider and vinegar into a pan and bring to the boil.
3 - Layer the sliced fennel and apple into a small baking tray. Place the fillets on top, season with salt and pepper then pour on the hot cider and vinegar. Dot with butter, cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
4 - Remove and scatter with finely chopped fennel fronds.