I was inspired whilst browsing Stuart Ovenden’s ‘Orchard Cook’ book, but lacking some of the ingredients I went a little off piste! I started with wonderfully fresh mackerel from the fish man at Kendal’s Wednesday market and, in the scheme of things, I didn’t need anything other than sizzling hot butter and lemon juice. However it was John’s birthday so something slightly out of the norm was required. The liquor was a mix of Eva’s organic Cumbrian apple juice and our medlar vinegar making about 400ml, sufficient for the 6 fillets to steep in. A couple of finely sliced shallots and peeled fresh root ginger, tablespoon of golden caster sugar, teaspoon of sea salt crystals and a good shake of nutmeg lobbed in next, brought to the boil and simmered for a couple of minutes to begin softening the shallots. I loved Stuart’s idea of adding rhubarb giving texture and an extra gentle layer of acidity, so I chopped up a couple of sticks and popped them in, bringing the mix back to a simmer. Finally I laid the stars of the show, skin side up, on the liquor mix, again bringing it back to heat and simmering for a further couple of minutes, covering and cooling before putting the dish in the fridge to continue steeping. This will happily steep for at least a day but tastes just as scrummy served after only a few hours with thin slices of fruity, rye Donka bread from Hazelmere Bakery in Grange used, not only to accompany the fish, but also to soak up the juices!