Transition Primrose Hill

Asparagus with Mackerel

Nic Rascle at La Petite Poissonnerie

Nic Rascle recommends a Spring partnership of home grown asparagus with smoked mackerel at La Petite Poissonnerie

“School was not my thing,” confesses fishmonger Nic Rascle looking back on his boyhood in an 11th century fortified Rhone village. “But I didn’t end up too bad” and he beams a big, proud smile round his well-stocked Primrose Hill fish shop. Fortunately an observant teacher spotted his culinary talent and got him into catering college in Grenoble, where extremely hard work was demanded of him from Monday to Friday, though he usually managed to spend summer weekends partying in St. Tropez. Poor chap…

He came to London when he was 20 to learn English, but his first job was in a French restaurant in Southgate where everyone in the kitchen spoke French. Moving on as an agency chef, he found himself living behind a fishmonger’s in Robert Street, where he offered occasional help and got seriously interested in fish. Then in November 2009 Nic found an abandoned café at the foodie end of Gloucester Avenue and, after massive clearance and renovation, opened La Petite Poissonnerie: a gleaming fish shop at street level with a fully fitted cookery school below where sushi-making and other fishy activities are taught. The kitchen classroom opens on to a well-stocked herb garden that is Nic’s pride and joy.

Rillettes de Maquereau Fumé avec Asperge


Classic rillettes are made with slow-cooked fatty meat, usually pork, duck or goose. Nic Rascle suggests very savoury rillettes of smoked mackerel, an oily fish that needs no cooking and goes astonishingly well with English asparagus in its late spring prime. Serves 4 as a starter

  • 4 x 75-80g fillets of smoked mackerel
  • 4 medium-sized tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion
  • Handful each of parsley, basil and coriander leaves
  • 2 spring onions (white part only)
  • 1tsp black peppercorns, cracked or coarsely ground
  • 5tbsp extra-thick double cream
  • 2 bunches fat English asparagus
  • 3tbsp extra-virgin olive oil and 2tsp lemon juice
  • Crusty brown bread and lemon wedges, to serve

Skin mackerel fillets, scraping away the central dark seam to expose any small bones that should be removed. Use your fingers to break up mackerel flesh in small pieces into a bowl.

Drop tomatoes into a bowl of boiling-hot water, leave for 1-2 mins, then transfer with a slotted spoon into a bowl of cold water for a further 1-2mins. Drain and skin tomatoes, halve each horizontally, scoop out and discard seeds and cut flesh into small dice.

Peel and finely dice red onion, trim spring onions and finely dice. Chop herb leaves very finely together and mix with diced tomato and onions. Spoon about a third of this mixture into a cup and mix the rest thoroughly into the mackerel along with the cream and most of the cracked or ground black pepper.

Cut or break off lower third of the asparagus stems and drop tips into a large pan of boiling water. Cook for 45 seconds after water returns to the boil, then drain and immediately drop asparagus tips into a large bowl of cold water. Drain when cool.

When you are ready to serve, mound rillettes on four serving plates and arrange asparagus tips and lemon wedges alongside. Mix oil and lemon juice into the reserved tomato and herb mixture and spoon over asparagus tips. Sprinkle each plate with cracked or coarsely ground black pepper and serve with crusty brown bread.

La Petite Poissonnerie

75A Gloucester Avenue, London NW1 8LD

Tel. 0207 483 4435

Opening times:

Tuesday-Saturday 9.30am to 7.30pm

Sunday 10.30am to 5.30pm

Closed Mondays

Photography: Aruna Khanzada