Mark Hix recipes: Our chef's flavoursome dishes feature his favourite fish - mackerel

Mackerel is affordable, versatile and is prized for its healthy omega oils

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Yes, it's my annual mackerel column – and it's still one of my favourite types of fish, not just because it's affordable and plentiful, but because it tastes great and is both versatile and extremely good for you.

Mackerel are abundant along our coastline, and many seaside holiday towns have boats offering mackerel-fishing trips for a few quid, including tackle and instruction. I often go out on my friend Harry May's charter boat in Lyme Regis, where you might also catch a glimpse of the shoal of dolphins that appears in the bay there each summer.

Fishing trips can make for a great family holiday activity, with the kids acquiring confidence around boats and the sea. And of course, if they catch something, that's supper sorted.

Smoked mackerel on toast

Serves 4

Try to buy the best quality smoked mackerel you can – preferably on the bone, as those vacuum-packed fillets don't really live up to expectations.

Instead of toast, you could use grilled flatbread or Scandinavian crackers.

1 small red onion, sliced
2tbsp cider vinegar
2 whole smoked mackerel or 4 fillets, skinned and boned
2tbsp crème fraîche
4 slices of sourdough
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few small salad leaves and herbs (fennel, sorrel, land cress, chervil, etc)

The day before, mix the onions with the vinegar in a non-reactive bowl and cover with cling film. Put two of the mackerel fillets in a blender with the crème fraîche, and blend until smooth. Chill overnight in the fridge.

To serve, toast the bread on both sides, spoon the mackerel purée on top, then flake the remaining two fillets over the purée and scatter over the onions and a few leaves.

Mackerel and green tomato ceviche

Serves 4

Fresh-caught mackerel is one of the best fishes with which to make a ceviche. You can spice it up as much or as little as you wish; I've fed this to three- and five-year-olds who have had a hand in catching the fish. Serve with toast if you like.

A few sprigs of coriander, including the stalks
The fillets from 3 or 4 mackerel, boned and skinned
2 spring onions, trimmed down and finely chopped up into thin chunks
2 medium-sized green or red chillies, one chopped and one thinly sliced
1 green tomato, halved, seeds squeezed out and the flesh finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
The juice of 1 lime
1tbsp olive oil

To serve

4 large red tomatoes

 

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Spicing things up: Mackerel and green tomato ceviche (Jason Lowe)

Thinly slice the red tomatoes and arrange in overlapping circles on each of the serving plates.

Finely chop the stalks of the coriander and mix in a bowl with the mackerel, spring onion, chopped chilli and green tomato. Season, and mix in the lime juice and half of the olive oil. Spoon into the centre of the sliced tomatoes, scatter the coriander leaves and sliced chilli on top, and spoon over the rest of the olive oil.

Crispy mackerel, orange and pea shoot salad

Serves 4

This is a great way to use an excess of mackerel after you have grilled or barbecued them. The orange segments help to cut through the oiliness of the fish.

For the dressing

1tbsp cider vinegar
Juice from the oranges (see below)
4tbsp rapeseed oil

For the salad

Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
300-350g mackerel fillet, boned
100-150g gluten-free self-raising flour
100ml milk
2 oranges, peeled and segmented (reserve any juice for the dressing)
50-60g podded weight of peas, cooked
A few handfuls of pea shoots, washed and dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

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Crispy mackerel, orange and pea shoot salad (Jason Lowe)

Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together and season to taste.

Preheat about 8cm of oil to 170C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or fryer. Cut the fish into chunks of about 2cm square. Season it, then pass through the flour, shaking off any excess. Next pass through the milk, and then again through the flour. Deep-fry for 2-4 minutes, turning the fish with a slotted spoon as it cooks, until crisp and golden. Remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper.

Toss the mackerel, orange, peas and pea shoots in a little dressing, and season. Arrange on serving plates, then spoon over a little more dressing over the top. Serve.

Moroccan baked mackerel

Serves 4

These are interesting flavours to add to mackerel – and the warka (paper-thin pastry that is a staple of north African cuisine) gives a really nice presentation. This would be great served with tabbouleh or a fresh, zingy tomato salad. You can buy warka or feuilles de brick in good Middle Eastern supermarkets, or I've seen it in Waitrose. Alternatively, use filo pastry.

For the stuffing

1 large red onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
1tbsp olive oil
1tsp cumin seeds
½tsp paprika
The grated rind of 1 lemon
30-40g fresh white breadcrumbs
2tbsp chopped parsley
2tbsp chopped coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the mackerel

4 medium-sized mackerel, gutted
4 sheets of warka or filo pastry
50g butter, melted
1-2tsp ground cumin
1 lemon, quartered


To serve

1 or 2 lemons, cut into wedges

 

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Interesting flavours: Moroccan baked mackerel (Jason Lowe)

First make the stuffing. Gently cook the onion in the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan with the cumin seeds, paprika and lemon rind for 2-3 minutes, stirring every so often without colouring. Transfer to a bowl, mix in the breadcrumbs, parsley and coriander, and season to taste.

Fill the cavity of the mackerel with the stuffing and season the outside of the fish. Lay a sheet of pastry on the work surface and trim so that when wrapped it exposes the head and tail. Brush the pastry with butter and lay the mackerel on top. Roll it up so it has a couple of layers, trimming any excess. Lay on a baking tray, brush with butter, and dust with ground cumin.

Preheat the oven to 220º/Gas mark 7. Bake the fish for 8-10 minutes, and serve immediately with the lemon wedges.

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