People often think of mackerel as a “fishy” fish, though when fresh, it is actually one of the purest and cleanest tastes of the sea you will ever encounter. It is delicious as a tartare, lightly pickled, cooked on the barbecue or in a scorching hot pan. The joy of eating mackerel is in the crispy skin and warm juicy oiliness of the flesh, but you need a bracing acidity to showcase this.
Mackerel do not have scales, so you only need to check for pin bones. If they haven’t been removed, simply run your knife either side of them at an angle, without piercing the skin, then using fish tweezers or your fingers, you can pull them away, going from neck end to tail end, in one simple manoeuvre.
Season the mackerel lightly with salt then rub the skin side with olive oil. Place under a hot grill until crispy and almost blackened. Alternatively, colour the skin side with a blowtorch until or in a scorching hot pan. You can really take it to being close to very burnt. You want that smokiness and crispness. Mackerel should only be refined when served raw. Cooked, it should be much more primal.
Once well coloured, cook the fish just to warm it through, you don’t want it to become chewy and dry. Finally, roll it in some pickle liquor (recipe below) flesh side down to take on some acidity; the vinegar content provides acidity but you need the lemon for freshness and fragrance. Finally, sprinkle with some Maldon flakes over the skin and serve on top of some sliced tomatoes and chopped parsley, pouring over some of the pickling juices.
Pickling liquor for mackerel:
30g White wine vinegar
30g Olive oil
½ Lemon, juice and grated zest on a microplane
- Bring everything to the boil then remove from the heat and add the lemon zest and juice.