Cornish mackerel is some of the best, and it is just coming into season. Baking it is simple and fuss free – and it means you can stuff it with plenty of aromatics to flavor the fish as it cooks. You could improve on this recipe by cooking it on a barbecue if you have one set up in the garden. Simply place each mackerel in a fish grilling rack and grill for about 12 minutes or so until just cooked through.
Mackerel is quite oily, so I combine it with a salad made from apple, fennel and cucumber, which is fresh and sharp and cuts through the richness of the fish. Pink Lady apples have a lovely pinkish tinge to the skin and make this salad so pretty, especially combined with the bright strawberry dressing. To make incredibly light work of it, invest in a hand-held mandolin, and you will be able to knock this – and other salads and slaws – up in no time.
Boiled and buttered baby new potatoes are lovely to serve alongside and will make the salad stretch to four people, or simply serve with fresh crusty bread.
4 whole mackerel, gutted and cleaned
2 lemons, sliced
olive oil, for drizzling
a large bunch of mint
a large bunch of dill
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
1 fennel bulb
1 apple (preferably pink lady), skin on and cored
a large handful of dill, roughly chopped
a large handful of mint, roughly chopped
lemon juice, for squeezing
For the vinaigrette:
1½ tablespoons cider vinegar
1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF and place the mackerel in a baking pan. Break smaller bunches off the large bunches of mint and dill and stuff them into the fish, along with the lemon slices. Any lemon that won’t fit inside the fish just pop in the pan and roast alongside the mackerel, as it will become sweeter as it bakes and is great for squeezing over the dish just before you eat. Drizzle all the fish with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until just cooked.
Meanwhile, make the salad and vinaigrette. Put all the ingredients for the strawberry dressing in the small bowl of a food processor and blend everything together well. Taste and season to your liking with salt and pepper and put into a small serving bowl.
Using a mandolin, finely slice the cored apple (try and get nice complete rings) and fennel, squeezing lemon juice over as you go to stop the slices oxidizing and turning brown. Finely slice the cucumber into similar thickness rounds. Put the apple, cucumber and fennel into a large salad bowl, add the fresh herbs and mix everything together well.
Once the mackerel is baked, serve the fish with the salad and drizzle with the strawberry vinaigrette.