Filleting the mackerel yourself makes eating it all the more rewarding. Of course you can buy it already filleted and I do so when cooking for large numbers but there’s definitely an enjoyable and almost therapeutic element to preparing fish from scratch.
2 mackerel (whole, or 4 fillets)
1 tin of flageolet beans
A large handful of samphire
1 punnet mixed cherry tomatoes
A few sprigs of basil
A handful of parsley
1 clove of garlic
Salt & Pepper
To fillet your mackerel…
With the fish on its side, score two vertical lines from top to bottom – one just behind the pectoral fin (the side fin just behind the head) and one just before the tail.
Now run the knife along the fish’s back, from the first cut, down to the tail, keeping your knife slightly to the side that you’re filleting. With the blade as close to the fish’s skeleton as possible, gently work the knife along this line, using horizontal strokes to lift the fillet away from the fish’s side as you go.
When you reach the stomach of the fish, simply slice the fillet away from the fish in one clean cut, avoiding the stomach bones.
Now turn the fish over and repeat with the other side.
When you have two clean fillets, you can start to remove any bones. These run in a line along the centre of each fillet and can be removed with fish tweezers, or simply cut out in a ‘v’, using a knife.
If this description isn’t clear, there are plenty of fish filleting videos up on youtube which will better explain the method and show you ways to quick-fillet a mackerel.
Place the mackerel fillets in a dish with olive oil, grated garlic, chopped parsley, lemon zest and some cracked black pepper. Cover and leave to marinate.
If you have a BBQ, now would be a good time to get it going (weather permitting), otherwise set your oven to grill at 190c and allow to heat up. Cut the mixed cherry tomatoes in half and layering up the basil leaves, cut these into little ribbons. Add all to a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Drain and rinse the flageolet beans and pick and wash the samphire. Set aside.
If barbecuing, I’d recommend using a grill basket to keep the fish intact when cooking but you can just place the fillets directly onto the grill for two minutes each side – just be aware that the skin may stick to the grill. For cooking in the oven, simply line up the mackerel fillets, skin side up on a foil-lined baking tray and place under the hot grill. Cook for three minutes, then turn over and grill the underside for one to two minutes.
Once cooked, set the mackerel fillets aside to rest on a plate for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, toss the flageolet beans and samphire in a hot pan with some lemon juice, salt and pepper, until the samphire softens a little and turns to a glossy emerald green.
Serve & enjoy!