Buckwheat blinis, mackerel and granny smith tartare

For the past few months we've been buying buckwheat blinis at the market. We enjoy them for sunday brunches, usually with some smoked salmon or with some salted butter and honey. They were good, so I decided to try my hand at making my own from scratch. 

Since we arrived in Brittany I've become very interested in using buckwheat flour for baking. It has a strong and distinctive flavor. It's mostly used in the preparation of galettes, the savory buckwheat crèpes you find all over Brittany, and in most REAL Crèperies around the world.

Mostly unknown anywhere else in France, it's been the principal ingredient in the Breton diet since the 15th century. I certainly never saw anybody using it in my south-werstern family. In the 70s, the local diet changed - I guess it got frenchified...- land used for the cultivation of buckwheat dropped from 116000 hectares to barely 200. In 1987, a non profit called Blé noir tradition Bretagne decided to save this great food. Now 2900 hectares of buckwheat are farmed in Brittany. It's still far from being enough to cover local consumption. Most of the flour now comes from Poland or China. Much like the struggle to preserve Breton cuIture, our local farmers have to fight to set aside more land for organic buckwheat. I now make sure to buy Blé Noir de Bretagne.

Another note on buckwheat:  it's not a grain but a plant in the rhubarb and sorrel family: Pollygonaceas. Buckwheat groats also by the name kasha.  It's gluten-free. 

Buckwheat blinis

Makes 20 regular size blinis, or 30 bite size.

Ingredients

  • 170 g farine
  • 30g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup  milk
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • I tsp salt

 

 

Instructions:

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients : flour, baking powder, salt
  2. Add the eggs, then the melted butter, the buttermilk and the milk
  3. The batter needs to be quite thick
  4. Cook in a hot non-stick pan

We decided to make an appetizer to go with our fresh blinis. My original idea was a blini, a dollop of dill crème fraiche and some smoked salmon. Voilà. But, we have so much locally caught fish and real wild salmon costs its weight in gold. I've had mackerel sushi before and loved it. The mackerel at the market looked great and were very affordable. I bought three beautiful fresh whole mackerels at the market and some smoked filets. Mackerel can have a great fatty texture so it needs something to keep the taste lively. New Granny Smith apples would do the trick. I pickled the apple in a little lime juice to add even more kick. Some oniony chives finished off the flavor profile. The creamy fish mixed with the the crunchy apple, tart lime and chives was like a Breton take on a ceviche.  

You can substitute salmon, trout, halibut, cod - basically any fish you can smoke in this recipe, just make a mix raw and smoked fish, add the chives and the lime marinated green apples. It will be as delicious.

Mackerel and Green Apple tartare

Serves 4 as an appetizer

Prep time : 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 mackerels, in filets ( makes about 8 oz of tartare)
  • 1 filet of smoked mackerel
  • 1/2 a granny smith apple
  • 3 or 4 limes
  • 1 tbsp of chopped chives + a few chives for serving

Instructions

  1. Cut 1/2 granny smith apple in matchsticks, and pickle in the juice of one  or two limes for 20 minutes.
  2. Skin your fresh mackerel filets, make sure to get rid of the silvery and black skin, as well as any bloody parts. Make sure there are no more bones
  3. Dice into cubes
  4. Skin the smoked fish and dice into cubes
  5. Mix the diced raw fish with some lime juice and 1 tbsp of diced chives. Let sit for 15 minutes
  6. Mix the marinated raw fish, the smoked fish and the diced marinated apples. Reserve some apple for the presentation.
  7. Serve on the blinis.

Marc's wine pairing : Reyka Vodka, the best vodka in the world...

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Groggy at a 6 am layover in Reikjavik, I discovered a bright, welcoming and bustling airport filled with Icelandic shops galore. After a really good latte amongst an equally tired throng of international travelers, I decided to explore the shops for something to take home. After all, how often would I be up here? Sweaters, smoked fish and spas were all tourist ready. But it was the Icelandic spirits that caught my attention. I did a quick google search and I saw that Reyka Vodka, was one of the best vodkas in the world! Intrigued, I picked up a big duty free bottle.  Hey, I figured that at least we could make a Bloody Mary with some curiosity value. 

I couldn't have been more mistaken. Served ice cold this vodka has a beautiful viscous texture. It's so clean and smooth, with a sweet herbal flavor that it can accompany a whole dinner from appetizer to dessert. Reyka is handmade. Its distillers use water drawn from a lava field, forgoing the need of treatment or demineralization before it's blended. After just a single distillation, it's filtered through lava rocks. The heat for the process is all geothermal and they use the best natural ingredients. A totally green process. 

The icy vodka brings this whole dish together; the grainy buckwheat blini, the rich raw mackerel and the briny smoked fish, the citrus tang and crunchy apple. It's a beautiful and unusual pairing.  

It makes me want to run out of Reyka fast, so that I have an excuse to stay in Iceland the next time and make a trip to meet these guys. 

It's a premium vodka without a premium price: 25 euros - can you believe that?