We’ve had our first fresh herrings of the season and what a treat they were – we ate 3 each just with bread and butter. Herring or mackerel should be eaten as fresh as possible, preferably on the day that they are caught and certainly within 48 hours. I know that is not always possible but the flavour memory of your first really fresh oily fish will stay with you for years. I have written the recipe for mackerel as they are more easily available – just shorten the cooking time for herrings.
Print the recipe here
2 large mackerel
50g pinhead or medium oatmeal
1 tbsp olive oil
1 Prepare the mackerel, or ask the fishmonger to do it for you. Remove the heads, snip off the fins and slit the bellies down to the tail. Discard the guts and rinse the cavities with cold water. Place the mackerel on a board, then press your thumbs firmly up and down the backs of the fish to flatten them out and loosen the bones. Turn over, slip a knife under the bones and scrape away any flesh, then snip through the spine at the tail end and discard. Remove any small bones. This is more complicated to write than to do!
2 Press the oatmeal into the flesh of the fish. Cut one lemon into quarters and squeeze the juice from the other.
3 Heat a large frying pan, then add the butter with the oil and heat until the butter foams. Add the mackerel, oatmeal side down, and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden. Add the lemon quarters to the pan too, to caramelise.
4 Press any remaining oatmeal onto the backs of the mackerel, then turn and cook for a further 2 minutes. Turn the lemons also. Add the lemon juice to the pan, allow it to bubble then serve the mackerel immediately.
• Herring will cook much quicker – allow about 1 minute on each side.
• Caramelising the lemon quarters will make them juicier and sweeter.
• Bread and butter is really all you need with this – but a green salad afterwards would be good.
• If you catch the fish yourself, you may prefer just to gut and then cook them whole rather than filleting them – but giving them an oatmeal coating will be less easy.