it's the cat's whiskers! smoked mackerel pâté

smoked mackerel pâté with
Peters Yard crisp breads
When Papa, Mama and Baby Bear returned home, they sensed immediately that something or someone had been eating their porridge and sleeping in their beds. When I walked into my parent's dining room to make some last minute checks before the party started, I immediately knew that something was wrong. It wasn't some kind of sixth sense or hairs rising on the back of my neck or even the pricking of my thumbs. My Goldilocks was right there, caught in the act.

My intruder was brazenly sitting on the dining room table attempting to sample a small morsel from each of the pots of mackerel pâté laid out. This was not some brattish blonde haired tot but a devious little black and white cat called Sykes, who had slipped unnoticed into a room, that was normally forbidden territory, and was happily tasting as much of the potted fish that she could get stuck into.

My mother was completely unflappable. I was sworn to secrecy. The cat was keeping her whiskers clean and her mouth firmly shut; she knew what was good for her. Between us, my mother and I swiftly smoothed over any evidence of the greedy cat tasting session. Our guests were none-the-wiser!

As well as being really good in a crisis, my mother taught me that the secret to cooking for a dinner party or a large celebration is all in the planning. Keep it simple and choose one or more dishes that you can prepare in advance. Very wise advice indeed.

One of Evelyn's party standards was the smoked mackerel pâté beloved of Sykes the cat. It is simplicity in its makeup. It is very easy to put together and tastes delicious with some homemade toasted bread. It is also perfect buffet food on savoury biscuits. I am really into Peter's Yard artisan rye crispbreads at the moment. They are perfect.

I tend to use more horseradish than stated below, as I adore the way that horseradish compliments both smoked and oily fish.

Serves 6 to 8 (as a starter)
Skill level: Easy

300g smoked mackerel fillets
150g cream cheese
100g double cream or crème fraîche
2 tsp freshly grated horseradish or 3 ready-made horseradish sauce
juice of 1 x lemon
cayenne pepper (or Tabasco sauce)
freshly ground black pepper
a few fresh chives and chopped parsley, to serve


  1. First skin the mackerel fillets and flake the fish into a bowl. Although most of the bones should have been removed, a few will probably get through, so remove them.
  2. With a fork, begin to mash the mackerel flakes. I like to finely mash half the fish and stir through some of the bigger flakes after combining the cheese and cream.
  3. For a smoother blend you can combine all the ingredients in a blender. However, I prefer to do it by hand. I do like a smooth texture, but I like a few lumps too!
  4. Add the cheese, cream, horseradish and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Combine well.
  5. Add the lemon juice a teaspoon at a time. Use all of the lemon juice (and even the zest), if you prefer a sharp flavour.
  6. Add a generous grinding of black pepper and refrigerate for at least 1 hour so that the fish pâté can firm up.
  7. Before serving, dust with a little more cayenne pepper.
  8. Serve with toast (rye, sourdough or a good homemade white bread) or with Peter's Yard artisan rye crispbreads.


  • A few lemon quarters can be served if you like extra zest!
  • Top each biscuit with a nasturtium leaf or slice of cucumber.
  • Probably very nice with beetroot, or so I have been told. As I am an avowed beetroot hater, I have yet to find out!

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