Thursday, 7 July 2011

Mariquita's Mackerel Meal with a Message.

Mackerel is probably one of the crew’s most favourite fish. Which is great for many reasons; firstly it is incredibly healthy, full of great oils (Omega 3’s no less) and essential proteins and minerals. Secondly it is a sustainable fish and there are huge quantities of them in our seas. Mackerel are caught in a very controlled and sustainable way so you can buy, catch and eat with no fear of depleting the sea further of its precious and rare supplies. It’s a pretty sad and frightening story that fills us all on board Mariquita with huge dread. The threat of fish-less seas and oceans is a very real and fast approaching issue. We should all be very aware and doing our best to get involved, either on a political level or simply on a consumer level, buying only well labelled and known sustainable species. You can look up and join Hugh Fernley Whittingstall’s famous fish fight’, an on-going and fantastic effort to ban ‘discard’. Over one Million tons of dead fish are dumped into European waters every year. A law that bans fishermen to land any by-catch means they have to dump any accidently caught, dead fish back into the sea. This is waste on a massive and horrendous scale. Get involved if you aren’t already. Those of us who make a living from and on the sea should be right in there like swimwear with our anti over-fishing and anti-discard efforts.

So if you really fancy some fish but are unsure as to what fish you can buy conscience free then ‘Go the Mackerel’. Like I said, it is delicious, meaty, full of great flavour and incredibly good for you. Its meatiness means that it can cope with more robust flavours or, simply grill, serve with some new potatoes (or some cheeky homemade, fat chips) and a great crunchy salad, lemon wedges to squeeze and you are away.

In Antibes I bought some fresh whole mackerel from a fish shop by the covered market. They were very nice fishmongers and after I explained that although I may have been dressed in boat uniform, my budget wasn’t in the super-yacht league, they directed me to the freshly caught mackerel they had in and I was hooked (fish joke). You can very easily tell fresh fish from not-so-fresh fish. There will be signs such as clear shining eyes and a salty-sea smell, not a fishy smell. Good firm flesh and bright clear scales. And talking of scales, they weigh in very lightly on the price front too.

I was very much in the mood for a Japanese spin on my Mackerel meal. Perhaps It was the influence of the availability of some lovely Asian ingredients in Antibes that led me to a simple but tasty little teriyaki mackerel with a coconut and cardamom infused rice idea.

I bought my mackerel whole so that I could fillet them myself but you can also ask the fishmonger to do this for you. Actually it was hard to get my fish away from the shop without being filleted. I had to convince him I was fine to do it myself. But I do enjoy doing it.

This is a very simple meal and took no effort at all to do but tasted so good, was filling but healthy and not too hard to eat with chop-sticks (Its okay Ma, you can use a fork if you like).

You will need;

2 mackerel fillets per person
3 small red chillis (or none, if you don’t like spicy. Or more if you do)
1 inch, fat knob of fresh ginger. (I buy a huge piece and freeze it. Its not hard to break off bits when you need it.)
1 fat clove of garlic
Zest and juice of 2 limes plus extra limes for serving
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp furikake seasoning or sesame seeds
4 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin (like a sweet rice vinegar) Or 1 tbsp honey of you don’t have Mirin
1 bunch of fresh coriander leaves and stalks

  • First wash and pat dry the mackerel fillets. Lie in a ceramic dish and start to prepare the marinade.

  • In a bowl, mix the crushed garlic with the peeled and grated ginger. Finely chop and deseed the red chillis and add to the bowl.

  • Finely chop the coriander stalks (the soft ones, nothing tough or woody) and add to the ginger and garlic mix, saving the leaves for the garnish. Add all the other marinade ingredients except the lime juice. Just the zest for now.

  • Season with some salt and pepper and pour over the mackerel in the ceramic dish. Mix and mingle using your fingers, making sure it is all nicely covered. That’s the best bit, it feels lovely. (weird? maybe) If you have to use a spoon, be nice and gentle.

  • Leave the fish to marinade for 20 minutes to an hour.

  • When your rice is cooked ( I cooked mine in coconut milk with some toasted and lightly bashed cardamom pods and a few Kaffir lime leaves), put a non-stick frying pan or griddle on to heat.

  • Put a very small amount of sunflower oil in the pan. There is oil on the fish but because there are some other ingredients in there too, there could be potential for sticking. When the oil is very hot, put the fish into the pan skin side down. Drizzle the fish with some of the lime juice, the pan will sizzle excitedly.


  • After a few minutes turn the fish over and drizzle with some more of the lime juice. When the mackerel is cooked, it won’t take more than a few minutes on each side, serve with the coconut rice and some lightly steamed mange tout or other lovely sweet, crunchy green beans. Garnish with the coriander leaves and serve with lime wedges. Hey presto, a delicious, healthy and ultimately satisfying dinner that would be very Tres Bien with a cold glass of Prosecco don’t you think? Or some sake?

There are many ways to make such a great fish taste even greater. If you have a great mackerel recipe please share. My sister did a great smoked Mackerel paté at her wedding. Great memories usually involve great food don’t they?   Well, mine tend to.

Funny that.

Thanks for reading, I hope that, if you haven’t already, you too can get involved with Hugh’s campaign. It’s a good one. A worthy one. And eat Mackerel, Marvellous Mackerel!