This mackerel dish makes a perfect dinner for two served with a carrot salad that acts as a palate cleanser between spicy bites of the fish.
Mackerel is richly flavoured, hardy and bullish enough to stand up to heavy spicing and relatively aggressive cooking. Which is exactly what happens here. A spicy paste is applied, then the fish is grilled until the spices sizzle and the flesh just begins to flake. A salad of pickled carrots and coriander helps to cleanse the palate between each bite, cutting through the spice and oily nature of the mackerel. This is a great evening meal for two.
It’s not too difficult to butterfly the fish at home, removing the fillets from the bones in one piece, and leaving the tail on to keep them together, but ask the fishmonger to do it if you prefer. Or use two regular fillets per person.
Spiced Butterflied Mackerel
For the pickled carrot salad
- 3 carrots (350-400g), peeled and cut into 2mm-thick circles (use a mandoline if you have one)
- 150ml apple vinegar
- 70g granulated sugar
- 10 black peppercorns
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- leaves picked from 10 sprigs of coriander
For the mackerel
- 2 mackerel, butterflied
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
- 1 tbsp Spice Mountain Mauritius masala (or alternative spice mix – see method)
- 3 tbsp light olive oil
1 Put the sliced carrots in a container that fits them snuggly. Heat the vinegar in a pan with 50ml water to just below a simmer.
2 Add the sugar, peppercorns, salt, mustard and coriander seeds, stir to ensure the sugar has dissolved and pour the mixture over the carrots. Cover and leave to cool for at least 1 hour, ideally more (up to 8).
3 Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Lay the fish on top, skin side down. Combine the garlic, ginger, masala, oil and a good pinch of salt and spread this over the fish flesh. Refrigerate for 1 hour. (If you can’t find Spice Mountain’s Mauritius masala, grind ½ a teaspoon each of cumin, coriander, yellow mustard seeds and red chilli flakes in a pestle and mortar, and mix with ½ a teaspoon of ground turmeric and ginger, plus a few turns of a pepper mill.)
4 Turn the grill on to its hottest setting, set a shelf 6-8cm from the heat source and close the oven door. Allow the oven to heat up for 10 minutes, turn your extraction fan on, then slide in the tray of mackerel and close the door. Grill for 6-7 minutes, until the spice mix is sizzling and turning golden and the fish begins to release some of its oils. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 3 minutes.
5 Mix the coriander leaves and pickled carrots (without their pickling juices) and serve alongside the fish.
Extracted from The Borough Market Cookbook by Ed Smith (Hodder & Stoughton, approx €28.50). Photograph © Issy Croker.