Of all fish, mackerel is one of the simplest to both prepare and cook, as well as being extremely cost-effective and highly sustainable. It’s a woefully under used fish which is highly nutritious and full of beneficial omega-3s. When buying mackerel look for shiny, firm flesh and bright eyes. Mackerel tends to sag around the belly area when past its fresh best, so ensure that your fishmonger gives you a nice round, uniform fish that looks as though it has just been pulled from the sea.
Your fishmonger will happily prepare your mackerel for you: ask him/her to gut, clean, and fillet the fish. It is, however, the most simple of fish to prepare if you would like to try this yourself. Simply cut into the fish from head to tail along its belly and remove the guts. Wash the fish inside and out. Place the fish flat on a work surface and, holding down its tail with one hand, run a sharp knife along its central bone from tail to head – you will feel the large inner bone against the edge of your knife. Cut the fillet free from the head end, turn over the fish and repeat on the other side to remove the second fillet. Quickly remove any obvious bones from the fillets, rinse them again, and they’re ready to cook.
The mackerel is lovely served with cauliflower rice and a tomato & watercress salad.
- Method :
- Place the mustard seeds, black peppercorns, and fennel seeds in a dry frying pan and place over a low heat until they begin to give off an aroma - 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a pestle and mortar (or blender) and crush to a medium-fine mixture. Add the salt and chilli, and mix well.
- Dry the fillets as best you can, paying particular attention to the skin side of the fish. Drizzle half of the of the olive oil over the flesh side of the fillets and rub it in using your fingers.
- Divide the spice mixture between the 4 fillets and use it to top the oiled flesh sides of the fish. Press down gently to ensure that it sticks.
- Place a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the remaining olive oil. Carefully add the fillets, one at a time, skin side down in the pan… as you add them, hold them down for a few seconds to prevent the skin from shrinking and causing the fillets to curl back on themselves - about 5 seconds will suffice.
- Cook for 4-5 minutes on the skin side to achieve a crispy skin. Carefully flip the fillets over and cook for a further 2 minutes on the flesh side. Remove and drain on kitchen paper, skin side down.
- Serve immediately - it is lovely with cauliflower rice and a tomato and watercress salad.