There are various different species of mackerel found around the world. These recipes feature Atlantic mackerel but could be made to apply equally to the likes of Spanish mackerel or even similar fish like herring. When you are choosing oily fish like mackerel, it is particularly important that you buy and cook them as fresh as possible, as the flesh will soon start to break down and become mushy. This will make them nigh on impossible to fillet properly and make them more likely to lose their shape as they cook.
These two mackerel were just about as fresh as fresh gets. They were caught on Loch Fyne on Scotland's West Coast just a few hours before they were brought home, filleted and cooked.
The importance of keeping kitchen knives as sharp as possible can never be understated. When filleting fish, it is particularly important that you use a dedicated filleting knife and that it be razor sharp. The best way of keeping any knife at its sharpest is to use a dedicated sharpening steel. These items are not expensive to buy, work far better than most if not all other knife sharpening tools available in today's market and are likely to last for many years if cared for properly.
The short video below shows how simple it is to use a sharpening steel and keep your knives in their best condition
How to Easily Fillet a Mackerel
An initial cut is made behind the pectoral fin and towards the head of the mackerel
Lay the mackerel on its side on a chopping board with the head nearest your weaker hand. Hold the head and make a deep, semi-circular cut behind the pectoral fin, angled towards the head and right through to the bone.
Twist the knife to face the tail and cut in a see-saw motion all the way along the bone to remove the first fillet.
Turn the mackerel over and perform the exact same procedure on the other side to remove the second fillet.
There is a ridge of bones runs around two-thirds of the way down the center of each fillet. These can be removed by making two cuts either side of the bones to form a v-shape and tugging the strip free. The bones and skin on the belly flap part of the fillet should be scraped away.
Wash the fillets gently in some cold water, pat dry with kitchen paper and they are ready to be cooked.
Ingredients (Serves 1)
- 2 mackerel side fillets
- 2 generous handfuls mixed salad leaves of choice
- 1 ripe peach
- 2 tablespoons all purpose (plain) flour
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil for frying
- Wedge of fresh lime
- Freshly chopped cilantro (coriander leaf) to garnish
Wash the salad leaves in a colander under running cold water and set aside to drain.
Spread the flour out on a dinner plate. Scatter with one teaspoon of the curry powder, some salt and pepper. Pour the oil in to a non-stick frying pan and bring it up to a fairly high heat.
Pat the mackerel fillets in the flour on their skin sides. Season the flesh sides with some salt and the second teaspoon of curry powder.
Gently shake the excess flour from the mackerel fillets and lay them skin sides down in the hot pan. They will take two to three minutes to cook before they are ready for turning.
Wash the peach and make a cut all the way around the circumference, right through to the stone. Twist the two halves apart. Provided the peach is fully ripe, the stone should easily pop free from the half in which it is embedded.
Cut each peach half in to four wedges.
Toss the peach halves through the salad with a little salt and pepper and arrange on a serving plate as a bed for the mackerel.
When you can see that the mackerel fillets are cooked almost but not quite all the way through, reduce the heat under your pan to minimum. Flip the fillets carefully over with a spatula to complete cooking in about thirty seconds to a minute on their flesh sides.
Lift the mackerel fillets on to the salad bed, skin sides up. The extremely thin skin is perfectly edible but if you wish, you could carefully scrape it away with a knife.
Garnish with the chopped cilantro and lime wedge and serve immediately.
Bonus Recipe: Chili Spiced Mackerel and Salad Sandwich
The second mackerel brought home that day was refrigerated after it was filleted to serve as lunch the following day in the form of a simple but extremely tasty fish sandwich.
The mackerel fillets were cooked in exactly the same way as in the previous recipe with the exception that medium strength chili powder was used instead of curry powder.
Two fairly thick slices were cut from a very fresh artisan loaf (wheat, spelt and rye on this occasion) and the first mackerel fillet was laid from the cooking pan on to one slice.
Some earlier washed and seasoned salad leaves were laid on top of the fillet before the second mackerel fillet was added.
The second slice of bread went on top and the sandwich was gently pressed down before being halved at an angle for service.