Return of the mack: Soup, pasta, snacks or even a burger - mackerel is very versatile says Mark Hix

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

In early winter we were told mackerel had stopped being a sustainable species as factory ships were hoovering them all up and depleting stocks. Suddenly what was once a populous fish on our shores, and one that tourists and locals would catch for fun, was flagged up as more or less a no-no on menus.

As it happens, about 12 months ago we organised a mackerel festival in Lyme Regis to take place this past week, finishing up today. The timing was looking a touch unfortunate but just recently we got the happy news that mackerel had been deemed sustainable again, so it's back on the menu – line caught, of course. So here's my annual column on the humble mackerel – an oily fish that's not only an important part of a healthy diet, but wonderfully versatile too.

Crispy mackerel tail in seashore vegetable broth

Serves 4

Damien, the head chef in my Soho restuarant, came up with this mackerel tail idea at what I call Challenge Hix, a little competitive thing I do with my chefs on Tuesday mornings. I get them all together and we have a cook-off doing 20 dishes using random, seasonal ingredients.

8 mackerel tails, cut about 3-4cm up the body
2-3tbsp self-raising flour
150ml milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying

For the broth

1 litre good fish stock
30-40g root ginger, peeled and finely shredded
1 medium red chilli, thinly sliced
2 spring onions, finely shredded on the angle

A handful of seashore vegetables like samphire, sea aster and sea purslane, washed with large leaves torn down

Preheat 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer.

Have two bowls ready, one with the milk and the other with the flour, seasoned. Coat the pieces of mackerel in the flour, shaking off the excess, then put them in the milk and then coat the pieces in the flour once again.

Carefully drop the mackerel pieces into the hot oil and cook for about 5-6 minutes – making sure to move them around. When they are really crisp, remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain carefully on kitchen paper.

Meanwhile bring the fish stock to the boil, add the ginger and chilli and simmer for a minute. Now add the seashore vegetables and simmer for just a couple minutes so they still have a bit of bite. Then remove the broth from the heat and stir in the spring onions, seasoning to taste.

To serve, divide the pieces of mackerel between four bowls and pour the soup over, serving immediately.

Tagliolini with mackerel and chilli

Serves 4

In Italy this is quite often made with red mullet, but small fillets from mackerel work just as well. The Sicilian version would contain pine nuts and currants in that traditional sweet-and-savoury style. Chilli would be used when currants weren't available and sometimes fried breadcrumbs are scattered on top. It's an ingenious way to make a tasty pasta sauce with a few fish fillets that wouldn't stretch to a full meal.

6 small mackerel fillets, boned and skinned
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 medium chilli, seeded and finely chopped or a good pinch of dried chilli flakes
4 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and finely chopped
100ml extra virgin olive oil
50g butter
1tbsp chopped fennel tops, or dill (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g or more of fresh or dried tagliolini

Cut the mackerel fillets into small rough 1cm chunks then put them in a pan with the olive oil, garlic, chilli and tomatoes, season and cook on a very gentle heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring every so often until the mackerel are beginning to break down into the oil. Add the fennel leaves or dill and remove from the heat.

Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the instructions and drain, reserving a little of the cooking water to adjust the sauce if necessary. To serve, add the butter to the sauce, re-season if necessary and toss the spaghetti in with the mackerel and chilli sauce.

Mackerel ceviche canapés

Serves 10

Raw mackerel is one of the best fish you can eat – it's also a great vehicle for spicy flavours.

These little mini popadoms, which you can buy cooked or uncooked, are perfect larder ingredients for back-up snacks and canapés. If you buy the uncooked ones you simply deep fry them, moving them around in the pan with a slotted spoon for literally a minute – or you can cook them under a medium grill brushed with a little vegetable oil.

4-6 medium sized mackerel fillets, skinned and boned
1 medium red or green chilli, trimmed and very finely diced
2 spring onions, cleaned and very finely chopped
The juice of 1-2 limes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tsp olive oil
1tbs chopped coriander
20 mini popadoms, cooked

Chop the mackerel fillets as finely as possible then mix with the other ingredients in a bowl, adding enough lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon on to the popadoms and serve immediately.

Big Mack

Serves 4

When you really have an excess of mackerel then this makes a fantastic snack or main meal. It's also a great way to get the kids eating fish: a whole mackerel might put them off, but you can tempt them to try fish with the Big Mack.

This can be serve with a relish of your choice like corn or spiced tomato.

8 medium-large mackerel, filleted, skinned and boned
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
20-30g fresh white breadcrumbs
2 spring onions, cleaned and finely chopped
Vegetable or corn oil for frying
4 soft hamburger buns

Ensure there are no bones in the mackerel fillets then finely chop them, before adding the spring onion and seasoning. Next, mould the mixture into four balls, then flatten into patties using a spatula or a palette knife. Then press the patties into the breadcrumbs on both sides and refrigerate them on a tray for an hour or so.

Heat the oil in a large, preferably non-stick frying pan and cook the patties for 2-3 minutes on each side, carefully turning them with a fish slice. Halve the buns, lightly toast them if desired, then place the patties between them – adding relish if you wish – and serve.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments