Alex Mackay's Grilled Mackerel with Tomatoes, Lentils, Orange and Rosemary
Mackerel is easy on the eye, powerfully flavoured, firm textured, doesn’t mind being a bit overcooked, is packed full of rich goodies that make you clever and is more often than not the freshest on the fish counter. Oh, it’s also very cheap; get the fish monger to fillet it for you and it’s easy to cook and eat as well!
You can double the quantity of sauce and lentils when you make this recipe, giving you enough for a pasta dish the next day, a topping for toast with a bubbling bit of cheese over the top, or both stuffing and sauce for tomatoes in summer and big mushrooms in winter.
I choose rosemary firstly because mackerel loves it, but also because it's easy to grow in a back yard or window box but if you can't get your hands on any you can replace it with thyme or oregano, or just go herbless.
I particularly like to serve this with hot baguette which I wipe round the plate and then the bottom of the pan to get every last bit of sauce!
Serves 4 people or 2 hungry ones
Serve with: All you need is bread.
Prepare Ahead: The tomato sauce can be made in large quantities and frozen.
Prep and Cooking Time: 25 minutes
4 large filets of mackerel
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 x 400g tins of Puy lentils, with their juice
4 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked from the stalks and chopped
Salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar
Method: Preheat your grill to its highest setting
Spoon 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into a shallow, ovenproof frying pan large enough to hold the mackerel in a single layer. (If you don’t have a pan like this, make the sauce in a medium sized saucepan then transfer it to a baking dish to grill the mackerel)
Add the sliced onions, garlic, orange zest and juice to the oil then sweat (soften without browning) over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
Add the tinned tomatoes and lentils with their juice, bring back to the boil then simmer rapidly for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt, black pepper and a generous pinch of sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.
Season the mackerel and then submerge it, right up to the skin, in the sauce.
Sprinkle the chopped rosemary over the mackerel and sauce then spoon over 3 tablespoons of water and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
Grill for 5-6 minutes until the skin is golden. Do keep an eye on it as grills vary enormously and the mackerel may be cooked more quickly or take a little longer.
Turn off the heat, leave to sit for 4 minutes then serve straight from the pan.
Depending on digs and cooking equipment:
* If you don’t have a grill you can braise the mackerel a preheated oven at 200C/Fan 180C/Gas 6 for 8 minutes, turn off the oven then leave to sit for 4 minutes.
* If you have neither grill nor oven, submerge the mackerel completely in the sauce, then cover with oiled parchment paper, simmer for 6 minutes then turn off the heat and leave to sit for 4 minutes.
Alex Mackay is an award-winning writer and cookery teacher, a regular on Ready, Steady Cook and a contributor to Sainsbury's magazine. You can also see some of his cookery videos on the Merchant Gourmet website.