Mackerel with barbecue sauce

Mackerel with barbecue sauce

Everyday Seafood

I get asked quite often what my final meal would be, which is a bit concerning. I’d rather be asked what would be my favourite thing to eat. Barbecued mackerel straight out of the sea and cooked on the beach has to be the answer. There’s nothing quite like it: the freshness of the fish, the oiliness of the flesh and the blistering of the skin from the hot coals. Oh, and the lovely smokiness. The barbecue sauce is something of a classic in my kitchens. If you have any left, it will keep in a bottle in the fridge for up to a week, or you can freeze it.


Quantity Ingredient
4 large mackerel, gutted
or 8 small mackerel, gutted

For the rub

Quantity Ingredient
2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes
3 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 oranges, zest grated, (use the juice for the sauce)
3 teaspoons sea salt
3 teaspoons chopped rosemary

For ‘my’ barbecue sauce

Quantity Ingredient
a drizzle olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
8 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
3 green chillies, deseeded and chopped
a bunch tarragon, leaves picked and chopped
8 rosemary sprigs, leaves picked and chopped
a small bunch parsley, leaves picked and chopped
3 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 oranges, zest grated and juiced
100g soft brown sugar
150ml red wine vinegar
200ml freshly squeezed orange juice
3 teaspoons english mustard
400 g tin good quality plum tomatoes
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


  1. To prepare the rub, toast the spices in a dry pan over a medium heat for a minute or so until fragrant and starting to crackle a bit. Add the orange zest, salt and rosemary and heat for 30 seconds. Tip the contents of the pan into a mortar and grind with the pestle until fine. Leave to cool.
  2. Slash the skin of the mackerel 3 or 4 times on each side and place the fish on a tray. Sprinkle all over with the spice mixture and rub it into the slashes. Leave to marinate in the fridge for 1 hour.
  3. To make the barbecue sauce, heat a sauté pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. When hot, add the shallots, garlic and chillies and sweat for 3 minutes. Stir in the chopped herbs, fennel seeds and orange zest and cook for another minute. Add the sugar and wine vinegar and stir until the sugar is dissolved, then let bubble to reduce until syrupy.
  4. Add the orange juice, mustard and tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer and let bubble until the liquid has reduced by half. Taste, then season with salt and pepper as required.
  5. Tip the contents of the pan into a food processor and blitz for 3 minutes. Strain the sauce through a sieve into a bowl and leave to cool.
  6. Light your barbecue 30 minutes before you plan on eating. When the coals are white hot, place the mackerel on the barbecue grid. Cook for 3 minutes on one side, then carefully turn the fish over and cook on the other side for 3 minutes. (Alternatively, you can cook the mackerel under a hot grill.)
  7. Carefully lift the fish onto a serving platter, using a big fish slice, not tongs – mackerel is too delicate for these. Serve immediately, with my barbecue sauce on the side.
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