Mackerel with tomatoes, radish and tomatoes

“Mixed-Up Millennials” screams a press release, presumably written by a non-millennial. Oh Gawd, what have they done now?

“Almost a third think bloaters are puffer fish,” it jeers. “Over a quarter think kippers are smoked mackerel [and] around half believe rock salmon is a type of salmon.” Fair enough. ‘Rock Salmon’ certainly sounds a lot more salmon than shark.

The truth is that food goes in and out of fashion. Tastes change. On the East Coast of America, lobsters were poor man’s food fed to prisoners, and in 19th century London, oysters were given away in bars, to line punters’ stomachs. Our grandparents might have wolfed down herring, mackerel, pilchards. Now, 80% of the fish eaten in Britain fall into the ‘Big Five: cod, haddock, tuna, salmon, prawns.

I might be Gen Y, but my taste is more aligned with the Silent Generation. Essentially I like Old Man food. Give me a rollmop herring or semonlina pudding, and I’m a happy gal. I’ll take flat scrumpy over Rekorderlig any day, a courgette over an avocado, and I’d always pick cow’s milk over soy or almond. I appreciate a good jam, anchovies on toast, and Delia’s Old Doverhouse Chutney with Lincolnshire Poacher.

In that light, I’ve been delighted to discover that my local supermarket has started stocking British mackerel fillets. It mightn’t be the most popular species – but it’s one of my favourites. Sustainable, native, cheap and utterly beautiful. It also cooks in minutes, making it an excellent lunch for one. Ideal for a quick freelancer’s lunch, but easy to scale-up too for a delicious and carb-free dinner to feed a crowd.

Mackerel with tomatoes, radish and tomatoes
Serves 1

3 spicy sweetfire baby beetroots
4 baby plum tomatoes
4 radishes
4 sprigs of parsley
1 + 1 tbsp olive oil (1 for the dressing; 1 for frying)
½ tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to season
1 mackerel fillet
½ lemon

  1. Prepare the salad ingredients. Cut the beetroot into a fine dice, and halve the baby plum tomatoes. Top and tail, then slice the radishes. Finally, pick the parsley and slice the leaves with a sharp knife.
  2. Make a quick dressing by mixing together 1 tbsp of olive oil with the red wine vinegar, and then season with salt and pepper. Tip the dressing over the salad ingredients, toss gently, and pile a strip down the centre of a plate.
  3. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan – leave it for 15-20 seconds, so it gets really hot. Place the mackerel, skin side down, into the pan.
  4. Don’t be tempted to poke the fish while it’s cooking – it’ll only break the skin. Hold your nerve. Instead, watch wile an opaqueness creep up the sides, until there’s just a strip of raw flesh running along the centre of the fillet.
  5. This might take 3-4 minutes, depending on the heat of the pan. Only then flip the fillet, in one confident movement.
  6. Now, leave the underside to cook for 15-20 seconds, and then squeeze the lemon over it – the cool juice will help slow the cooking. Quickly lift the fillet out of the pan, and place it on the bed of beetroot, tomatoes and radish, skin side up.


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