Friday, June 18, 2010


There's not much that beats a summer BBQ...

...unless of course you cook the fish you've caught that day.

I'm never been much of a fisherwoman, me, but after catching my first two mackerel yesterday, I can see myself making a habit of it. I'd compare the feeling to standing up on surfboard for the first time, learning to ride a bike or making the perfect cake. Hours of trial and error, constantly waiting for a nibble on the line, and finally it just comes. And all you can do is embarrassingly hoot with joy!

After six hours of tracking down shoals, keeping a look out for a flock of seagulls diving with speed into the sea, we managed to find a calm spot out of the wind. Five mackerel between three of us; a humble catch which made us appreciate our slippery friends all the more.


The first mackerel was small and pretty - intricate tropical green markings on the skin, and just enough meat to serve as the perfect starter. And so fresh. The smell of the sea and nothing else.

The second was big. A wriggler, leaving its iridescent scales firmly glued to my hands.

Homeward bound, salty and crisp, I pondered how I could do these fish justice, how to keep the fantastic flavour of the mackerel while giving them a bit of a kick? And who better for inspiration than Man of the West and Fish Extraordinaire, Rick Stein? His Seafood cookbook is an absolute necessity when it comes to preparing and serving fish well and I wouldn't tamper with any whole, fresh fish without flicking through its pages first...Simple but perfectly paired ingredients to bring out the best of the sea's offerings. So for my mackerel I chose a lightly spicy marinade which complemented my taste buds and the naturally rich and flavoursome flesh of my catch.

BBQ adaptation of Rick Stein's Devilled Mackerel
(I have doubled the original quantities to allow for extra marinade to pour over the fish once cooked, and add lemon juice which enhances the taste even more)

4 x 350g (12oz) mackerel, cleaned and trimmed and cut
(if you haven't the time nor energy for a day's fishing then mackerel are easy to find on fish counters in delis and supermarkets and are sold at a reasonable price)
60g (1 1.2 oz) butter
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp English mustard powder
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp paprika2 tsp ground coriander/ coriander seeds, crushed
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 generous squeezes of lemon juice
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp salt

Slash the skin of the mackerel at 1cm intervals on both sides from the head all the way to the tail, taking care not to cut too much into the flesh.

Melt the butter in a small roasting tin. Remove from the heat, stir in the sugar, mustard, spices, vinegar, pepper and salt and mix well. Add the mackerel to the butter and turn them over once or twice until well coated in the mixture, spreading some in the cavity of each fish as well.

Keep some of the marinade aside for post-pourage. Wrap each in tin foil so that all the juices are held in. Place the packages on a hot barbecue (coals white) and cook for 5 minutes on each side. Check to see if cooked through.

Simply roll the fish on to plate (arguably it looks prettier uncooked) and serve with a salad (as Rick suggests) of tomato and chopped mint. Open the fish in half and gently pull away the spine. It should come away easily. Pour over the rest of the juice and tuck into best ever mackerel.

If the spice recipe doesn't tickle your tackle, then try a simple filling of horseradish sauce, salt and pepper, and follow the same cooking method.

Now, how's about a good ol' knee slapping shanty?!

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