Mackerel, Daddy’s way

When I was small my uncle owned a little fishing boat and in the summer he would take my brother and I mackerel fishing in the bay. In my memory it was always incredibly warm and sunny when we went out fishing, the sky a pale and empty blue, the vast expanse of sea around the little bobbing fishing boat sparkling. I remember thinking the mackerel were pretty with their patterned silver scales, sometimes a little rainbow coloured. They came out of the water cool and slippery, smelling of the sea, flapping and flailing about in the boat before falling still. The fish hook caught through the mouth both fascinated and disgusted me. Most exciting was knowing that when we got home we could eat these fish we had caught ourselves.

My father was always in charge of cleaning, gutting and cooking the fish. His favourite way to prepare them was to brush the fillets with lime cordial then top them with cayenne pepper and cheddar cheese. It is this meal, along with very rare steak, (‘It’s no good unless it’s blue’, he would always say) that reminds me most of my father. This is how we cooked mackerel fillets the other night, Daddy’s way. It’s been a long time since I’ve had them like this. It’s a good way, though perhaps no longer my favourite way, being less of the melted cheese fiend I was when I was small. I now prefer to contrast the oiliness of the fish with something fresh and fruity such as chunks of softened apple, or maybe lemon and chilli. But for me this is a very nostalgic way, a comforting way. For that it is special.

Cheesy mackerel – Serves 4

  • 4 large mackerel fillets, skin on, bones removed
  • 2 tbsp lime cordial or 2 tbsp lime juice mixed with 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 100g grated cheddar
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste if you like things spicy)
  1. Preheat grill to high.
  2. Place mackerel fillets on a foil line baking tray, skin side up.
  3. Grill for 5 mins.
  4. Remove from the grill, turn fish over and grill for a further 2 mins or until the fish is just cooked through.
  5. Remove from the grill and brush the lime cordial/juice mix over fillets. Sprinkle with the cayenne pepper followed by the grated cheese. Return to the grill for a further 3-4 mins or until the cheese is bubbling and golden.
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