Smoked mackerel, beetroot and potato salad

MackerelBeetrootSaladTitle © J Horak-Druiff 2014

Like most weeks, last week saw many famous birthdays. Iggy Pop, the super-impressive and seemingly indestructible (despite his best efforts!) grandfather of punk turned 67.  Queen Elizabeth II of England turned 88  (although her birthday is only officially celebrated in June). Crispin Glover who played a fresh-faced George McFly  in Back to the Future turned 50 (and if that does not make you feel old, nothing will…). Jan Van Riebeeck who established the first permanent European colony in South Africa would have been 395 years old, were such a thing possible. Jack Nicholson is still incorrigible at 77 ; Shirley Maclaine is still fabulous at 80; and Bjorn Ulvaeus, founder member of ABBA, keeps going on and on and on (hah!) at 69. And if he were still with us, William Shakespeare would have turned 450 years old last week.

Of course, in many ways, Shakespeare is still with us – ask any child in high school in an English speaking country and they will probably roll their eyes at the prospect of having to study Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, or another of the Shakespeare plays so popular in school curricula.  But Shakespeare left us far more than a collection of plays and poems.  He was an inveterate creator of new words and phrases – and where would the English language be without the words zany, remorseless, moonbeam, luggage, equivocal or bandit, all of which is credited with creating or at least using in a new sense (e.g. making a verb out of an existing noun).   But even more astonishing is the number of common English expressions and phrases that he invented – now so well-known that we scarcely give them a second thought as we use them. Think of:

  • Vanish into thin air
  • Without rhyme or reason
  • Wear your heart on your sleeve
  • Neither here nor there
  • Too much of a good thing
  • Eaten out of house and home
  • Foul play
  • In the mind’s eye
  • Dead as a doornail
  • As luck would have it
  • To be up in arms
  • The naked truth
  • The be all and the end all
  • Foregone conclusion
  • Wild goose chase
  • The green-eyed monster

He is also credited with inventing the phrase “salad days”, an expression that I first heard in the vintage Spandau Ballet song Gold back in the 1980s (which says a lot about my misspent youth!) but was apparently also famously used by Queen Elizabeth II in her coronation speech in 1953.  The expression always puzzled me. Were these hard times when you had no money for anything but plain salad? But apparently the salad is not a reference to enforced frugality but rather to youth and inexperience – hence the metaphor for greenness. More recently, salad days to me means the days of enforced confinement at home, during the warmest Spring we have had in a while, with time on my hands to make a proper salad for lunch every day.  As readers of this blog will know I have been eating very carefully since I broke my femur, trying to pack every meal with as many bone-friendly nutrients as possible and salads are perfect for that. This particularly delicious example is the perfect salad for people who don’t like rabbit food – there is nothing rabbitty about it and it makes for a colourful and substantial meat-free meal.  The recipe comes from the excellent BBC Good Food and I did very little to alter it, other omitting the horseradish as there was none in the fridge, but I am sure you could successfully experiment with additions and substitutions. It’s so tasty that it is guaranteed to vanish into thin air at any table 😉

Here are some more brilliant beetroot recipes from other bloggers:

  • Mackerel salad with apples and walnuts from Sarah
  • Beetroot and bitter chocolate cupcakes with caramelised hazelnuts from Nazima
  • Salmon with bacon, beetroot and peas from Helen
  • Beetroot chocolate cake from Michelle
  • Celeriac with beets, raisins and walnuts, aka pink Waldorf salad from Margot


MackerelBeetrootSaladFinal © J Horak-Druiff 2014 

5.0 from 6 reviews
Smoked mackerel, beetroot and potato salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This substantial and tasty salad is packed with flavour and good-for-you ingredients.
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: European
Serves: 2
  • 450g new potatoes (I cut the larger ones in half)
  • 2-3 smoked (or smoked and peppered) mackerel fillets, skinned
  • 3 large cooked beetroot (about 250g)
  • 100g  mixed salad leaves (rocket, cress, baby spinach, baby chard)
  • 2 celery sticks, finely sliced
  • 50g pecan pieces
  • 65ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 35ml apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tsp runny honey
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp creamed horseradish sauce (optional)
  1. Boil or steam the potatoes for 12-15 mins until just tender. While the potatoes are cooking, flake the mackerel fillets into large pieces and cut the beetroot into bite-size chunks.
  2. Drain the potatoes and cool slightly. Mix the salad dressing and horseradish sauce together in a bottle and shake well.  Taste and adjust for seasoning.
  3. Tip in the potatoes (preferably still warm) into a salad bowl. Add the salad leaves, mackerel, beetroot and celery, add as much dressing as desired and toss gently to coat.  Sprinkle with the pecan nuts and serve immediately with good crusty bread for mopping.

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  1. says

    That looks gorgeous and satisfyingly robust as well as healthy. I’m really going to have to start cooking things that my family won’t eat… which includes all of these ingredients except the potato, as I’m missing out on all those flavours!
    Love your Shakespearianisms.
    My first encounter with the phrase Salad Days was with the musical of that name, which was put on at school and was about some carefree Twenties young people taking care of a piano that made people dance and sing! Once the piano had got them to the point of getting married its guardianship had to pass on to the next unencumbered young things. At least that is what I remember of it from the age of about 9… and of course the recurring tune of the theme tune ‘we’re looking for a piano, a piano? yes a piano, just any old piano? No, one that makes you sing…. ‘
    Anyone else remember it?

  2. says

    Interesting! I did not know Shakespeare created those phrases. It sounds not what he usually speaketh! Old English was casual! totally rad.. LOL
    love this recipe. perfect as I am smoking my fish these days!

  3. says

    Such a genius man he was. What a fascinating post and of course a drool worthy recipe that I’m sure would drive his creativity were he alive today to eat it!

  4. says

    Nice Abba pun! Quite a sleazy track about a pick up joint if I remember rightly… some of those Abba songs were quite kinky when you unravel the lyrics!

    Beetroot and smoked mackerel make a wonderful pairing, I love how the acid of the beetroot cuts through the oiliness of the fish. I remember when I made my version I was photographing it in the garden and next door’s cat was determined to get in shot!

  5. says

    I adore the combination of beetroot and mackerel together – “salad days” indeed. Bring it on! Hope you are continuing to make a good recovery.

  6. says

    Hope your femur is well on the mend Jeanne. Shakespeare also coined the term snow-white – Disney would never have been the same! Lovely post – I share your fascination with the origin of words (and love beetroot in salads).

  7. says

    After recently falling in love with Sarah Raven’s coconut beetroot soup I decided to give beetroot a chance and have even planted some in the garden. I would love to try this version especially as it is paired with one of my pantry staples Mackerel.

  8. says

    Smoked Mackerel.. a very underrated and under used food commodity. I usually make it into a Pate to have with some freshly toasted granary bread. I like the sound of this flavour combination. One for the list this summer!