It is a sustainable star, abundant in our waters, well-priced and packed with health-giving properties from Omega 3 fatty acids. The only drawback is that it doesn’t keep well so it should be eaten when absolutely fresh. Look for fish that shine and glisten, are firm to the touch and have bright, clear eyes.
Although I prefer to cook mackerel on the bone, they are much more straightforward to eat when prepared as a fillet. The filleting process is about as simple as it gets. Using a very sharp knife make a cut on either side, just behind the gills. Follow this with two long cuts down its back, on either side of the backbone, cutting through to the stomach cavity. This should leave you with two nice fillets that now need the pin bones removing. They run in a straight line down the centre of the fillet, from the head end, for about 5-6cms. Remove by making a V shaped incision on either side of the bones and lifting them out in one piece.
Super-fresh mackerel fillets are great eaten raw, Japanese style as sashimi. Alternatively they can be pan fried, skin side down in a non-stick pan. They are super when part cooked-part cured in a Spanish ‘escabeche’ preparation or soused English-style in vinegar. The French route is a little more gentle, replacing white wine for vinegar. Due to mackerel’s richness avoid cream or butter based sauces. High acidity and sharpness works much better – gooseberries or rhubarb are good partners.
Pan-fried Fillet of Mackerel – Potato and Cucumber Salad with Horseradish
4 very fresh Mackerel Fillets
300g New potatoes
1 sprig Dill
1tsp Dijon mustard
1 squeeze Lemon juice
1/2tsp Icing sugar
75ml Creme fraiche
1/2tsp Grated horseradish
1tsp Salmon caviar
1. Cook the potatoes in salted water with the dill.
2. Drain, peel, then cut into 1 cms cubes.
3. Peel the cucumber, cut in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds.
4. Grate coarsely onto a plate, sprinkle lightly with salt, and a couple of ice cubes, cover with cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
5. Drain the grated cucumber in a colander with a bowl beneath to collect the liquids.
6. Check for saltiness and rinse if necessary.
7. Place the cucumber liquid in a bowl along with the warm potato dice.
8. In another bowl, whisk together the mustard, lemon juice and sugar – season with salt and pepper then very carefully whisk in the crème fraiche a little at a time.
9. Stir in the grated horseradish to taste.
10. Add the grated cucumber to the potatoes and then fold in the dressing.
11. Sprinkle the chopped dill over along with the salmon eggs.
12. Pan-fry the mackerel fillets in a non-stick frying pan for 2 minutes on the skin side, then turn and cook for a further minute.
13. Serve the mackerel on oval plates with the potato salad alongside.
14. Grate a little fresh horseradish over.
4 super fresh Mackerel fillets
125ml Japanese soy sauce, Kikkoman brand
11/2tsp Mirin (sweet cooking sake)
1/2tsp Dried bonito flakes
1/2tsp Japanese pickled ginger
1. For the dipping sauce: Heat the mirin and sake bringing to a boil. Remove from the heat; add the soy sauce and bonito flakes. Leave to cool.
2. With a very sharp knife cut the mackerel fillets crossways into 4mm thick slices and arrange on chilled plates.
3. Pile the ginger and wasabi alongside.
4. To eat, mix a little of the wasabi into the dipping sauce. Pick up a slice of mackerel with chopsticks and pass through the sauce and eat.
5. Follow each piece with a slice of pickled ginger.
Marinade of Mackerel in White Wine
2 Carrots (finely sliced)
300ml White wine
2tbsp Coriander seeds
2 large Onions (finely sliced)
1 Lemon (finely sliced)
1 Thyme sprig
1 Bay leaf
1 Parsley stalk
100ml White wine vinegar
1. Bring water to a boil.
2. Add carrots and cook for 2 mins.
3. Add remaining ingredients, re-boil and cook 1 minute more.
4. Pour marinade over mackerel (making sure it covers fish).
5. Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.
6. Serve garnished with sprigs of dill.