Recipe of the Week - Whole Grilled Mackerel with Onions, Fennel, Capers, Pinenuts & Raisins

Mackerel are one of our favourite summer fishes, indicating that summer is finally here. As a keen fisherman, nothing beats a mackerel straight out of the sea and cooked over a fire on the beach.

We are fortunate in West Dorset to be close to the sea, where they can be caught very quickly from the shore or boat. Once the water temperature is warm enough, the shoals chase the whitebait. On a still summer's eve, they can be spotted herding the tiny whitebait along the beach and sometimes onto the shingles. Nothing is more exciting to a fisherman than seeing the mackerel shoals moving into casting distance. They can be great sports on light spinning tackle using a single lure instead of the strings of feathers usually deployed along the beaches. Generally hot on the heels of the mackerel are the Seabass, which, if you are lucky enough to catch, will have to be returned alive as there is currently a ban on pleasure fishermen keeping any fish that are seen.

If you are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and find a shoal of mackerel feeding close by, then please only catch what you need. Just because they are abundant doesn't mean you must see a hundred and fill your freezer. Frozen oily fish like mackerel is a poor substitute for a fresh one, and we need to responsibly conserve our fish stocks and fish for them.

4 whole mackerel gutted
3 onions
1 bulb fennel
1 tbsp small capers
50g raisins
75g pinenuts
100ml olive oil
30ml moscatel vinegar
2 cloves garlic
1 unwaxed lemon

1) Peel the onions and slice very thinly; halve the fennel remove the core and slice thinly
2) Warm up the vinegar with 30ml of water and bring to a boil, then add the raisins, cover with a lid and simmer for 5 minutes on low heat; remove from heat cover and leave to cool
3) Heat 75ml olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the onions and fennel, stir well, and season with salt. Cook for 10 minutes on medium heat until browning slightly. Then add 2 cloves of chopped garlic, reduce heat to lowest, and cook for 1 hour, stirring frequently. (You are not looking for any more caramelisation, just to be very soft and sweet.) Then add the liquid from the raisins and cook until it has all evaporated.
4) Stir in the soaked raisins and capers and leave to cool ( this stage can be done in advance and stored in the fridge.
5) To cook the mackerel, cut 3 diagonal slashes about 1cm deep in the body. Season the inside and out well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
6) Halve and slice the lemon. Put a few slices, along with a sprig of oregano, inside the body cavity. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil.
7) Light your barbeque and burn until the coals are grey/white. If you have a fish basket, this is always easier, making turning it much more straightforward. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.
8) Lightly toast the pinenuts and gently warm the onion-fennel mixture. Mix together and serve on the side of the fish.
9) This would be lovely served with a simple peppery leaf salad and some new potatoes for a great, simple summer lunch.


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