Mitch Tonks runs RockFish Grill & Seafood Market in Clifton, Bristol. He is an award-winning chef, restaurateur and food writer and has two other seafood restaurants in Dartmouth.
Here’s the Catch
With sustainable fishing top on the agenda, each month new flavour columnist and seafood specialist Mitch Tonks cooks up a storm with his seasonal fish of choice…
Mackerel is the one fish that seems to tick all the boxes. It’s sustainable, you can buy it from the UK, it’s good for your health, okay on the budget and gives a cracking taste. Locally caught in abundance in UK waters, its price has remained consistently low, plentiful, cheap and fabulous to eat – surely too good to be true? The health benefits of omega 3s are well documented; our diet over the years has changed and we need to up the intake of the good fats out there in foods like olive oil, avocados and, of course oily fish. It’s good brain food, skin food, gives you shiny hair and is good for the heart. It’s a wonder it’s not compulsory to eat it! Some people are less keen on the stronger flavour but it is worth trying sousing mackerel in a mixture of sugar, vinegar and spices and gently poaching it for a moist result packed with delicious tastes.
Supermarket shelves are full of smoked mackerel rather than fresh fish, mainly because fresh mackerel should be eaten as soon as it is caught – this is when those healthy oils are at their best levels. A fishmonger will get supplies in each day and because they are transported on ice and kept in cooler conditions than domestic fridges, you can enjoy fresh mackerel without having to live by the sea or owning a boat – although that is good too!
It is very simple to prepare freshly caught mackerel, it is not scaly like sea bass or salmon so you just need to take a knife and split down from head to tail and remove the innards, wash in a bit of sea water, add some seasoning and chuck on the barbeque for a few minutes each side. The beautiful, smooth petroly blue green iridescent skin crisps up and works so well with the juicy, moist chunks of fish.
Works well with…
Mackerel soused in aromatic spices and a sweet and sour mix of vinegar and sugar is delicious, grilled and served with nothing but a squeeze of lemon, mackerel used as an alternative to tuna in a Niçoise or married with the strong flavours of red onion and horseradish in a simple crisp salad.
Mix 1 tbsp ground allspice, 1 tbsp ground coriander, 2 tbsp paprika, 1 tbsp turmeric, 2 tsp ground cassia, 1 tsp ground cardamom and 1 tsp chilli flakes together and store in an airtight jar.
Heat 2-3 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan, add 2.5cm of freshly chopped root ginger, 1/2 a chopped red pepper, 4 cherry tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic and 1 chopped onion. Fry gently for 4-5 minutes, then add 1 tsp of your spice mix. Add 1 mackerel (approximately 350g, gutted and chopped into 5cm chunks or leave whole), cover with water and leave to simmer for 7-8 minutes (for mackerel chunks) and 12 minutes (for a whole fish).
Before serving, season with plenty of salt, then add finely chopped fresh coriander, 40 black olives and a squeeze of lemon to taste.