Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Grilled Mackerel with Tomato Couscous and Tartar Sauce

Ready in: Under 20 minutes
Multi-tasking level: Very Low
Feeds:  4, and goes well in lunch-boxes. Scale down as necessary

Price (approx.)
2 butterfly fillets of mackerel
These ones came in a packet, but keep checking fish that are reduced at the counter. It can be intimidating, but those people are there to help you- always ask to have your fish descaled and gutted by the person serving you, or descaled and filleted if you don’t want to use the whole thing. It’s free, and they’re very happy to do it. Also, you can ask for the bones back to boil up for stock if you so please. Don’t be intimidated just because you have to talk to someone
1 lemons
3 teaspoons mayonnaise
I use light mayo because I’m a girl and therefore like to trick myself into thinking mayo isn’t just oil and more oil
60p a bag- we’re using about 30p’s worth here
Wholegrain couscous is tasty. Remember couscous works really well cold/reheated- cook more than you need
1 can value chopped tomatoes
Sainsbury’s basics ones are actually the best. Nice red colour, come in a carton not a jar. Edit: They now sell versions with herbs in them. Cool story, Sainsbury’s.
Splash of red wine
Don’t bother with fancy wine here, it’s really just to give it some depth
1 tablespoon capers
Capers are delicious. Keep them in your fridge. The jar is pricey, but will last for months, even a year
4 handfuls baby spinach leaves
Bag costs about 75p, we’re using about 30ps worth
Delicious go-to salad because it doesn’t have a disappointingly airy texture like other salad bits
Chopped basil and lemon thyme
Growing herbs (of the culinary kind) in your student digs will make it look prettier and disguise generic student smells. Also you can eat them
                                           Or about £1.48 each
Impressive bang-for-your-buck

·       Small saucepan for couscous
·       Grill pan (or roasting dish with a cooling rack inside)
·       Chopping board and knife
·       Small bowl and spoon for tartar sauce
·       Spatula
·       Possibly a pastry brush, if you have one (NB: Buy a silicone pastry brush. You can get them from supermarkets. Ones with actual hairs will leave actual hairs on your food and your friends will question your personal hygiene)

        1 .  Couscous
a.        Put a third as much couscous as you want to eat in a saucepan
b.       Add 1 ½ times as much liquid as there is couscous in with it. In this recipe, put a tin of chopped tomatoes on it, a splash of red wine, a squeeze of lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons of sugar (otherwise it will just dissolve your face when you try to eat it) – and some chopped basil if you’re feeling fancy
c.        Put on the hob on a high heat and stir frequently with a wooden spoon. Just make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom. Sort the mackerel out now
                                                                       i.       Cooking the couscous will require some attention. It ought to look a bit frogspawny after about 5 minutes- if it starts sticking to the bottom at that time, put a splash more water in it
                                                                     ii.       After 10-14 minutes it should be done

        2.  Mackerel
a.        Turn the grill on high
Delicious baste
b.       Take out your mackerel fillets and admire their value for money
c.        Make a baste
                                       i.       Put the juice of half a lemon, a tablespoon of olive oil, chopped lemon thyme and basil (optional) and half a teaspoon of salt in a bowl
                                       ii.       Mix together to emulsify (stop the water and oil separating and make it thicker)
d.       Paint the baste onto the fish skin with either a pastry brush (if you’re cool) or your fingers (if you don’t bake enough pies and therefore have no pastry brush)
Crispy deliciousness
e.        Put the mackerel under the grill, skin side up, for 5 minutes. Start making the sauce
f.         Take out- Drain any lemon juice from on top and add lots of salt- this is going to make the skin all crispy. Cook for 4 minutes more
g.        When the skin looks delicious, flip and cook for about 1-2 minutes flesh side up

Tartar bits
       3.  Tartar sauce (we’re not making the mayo. Shop-bought mayo is just fine.)
        a.        Put 3 tablespoons of mayo in a bowl
        b.       Chop up 1 tablespoon of capers as finely as you can and put them in
        c.        Add a squeeze of lemon. If you want it to taste homely and familiar, add a teaspoon of sugar
        d.       Mix together

       4.  Plate up
a.        Flop the couscous into a sieve if there’s any water lurking about still, then back in the pan, then a bit on your plate
b.       Put spinach leaves on top because layers are so "now"
c.        Put half a fish on top of that- admire that crispy skin
d.       Slop a little tartar sauce on the side
e.        Chow down

Look how fancy this looks. Hella fancy, that's how fancy

Also: Is anyone else's mind blown by the techno-awesome pattern on mackerel? Click on the picture of the fillets to get a good look- I cannot believe that actually happens naturally...

How tartar sauce should look,
for the uninitiated 

                                             Seriously impressed with
                                                          The size of these babies...


  1. I like you and your foods. I enjoy your writing and as the recent recipient of a vegetarian girlfriend who eats fish, I look forward to your fishdishes that I can cook her and pretend they were my idea and not give you any credit at all. Plus as a student in Exeter it's helpful for my shopping to find a food blog that achieves the Venn diagram of UK-based and student oriented. Thanks!

    1. Fish is pretty brilliant because, unlike meat, you can see how cooked it is without having to cut into it. Thus, barely ever goes wrong.

      I thoroughly approve of plagiarism to impress a mate. Maybe I should post recipes for fancy-but-easy puddings to seal the deal... I make a mean lemon-meringue pie!

      What are you studying at Exeter?

    2. Her forte is key-lime pie so if I can counter that with a lemon-meringue pie that is clearly entirely of my own devising and not nicked off a girl on the internet then that would go down a storm.

      I'm doing French, so next year you will have to post your prices in Euros to meet my demands. What do you study?

  2. Nice to see young people getting into proper fish rather than the battered or fingered variety. Well done.

  3. nice idea.. thanks for sharing..

  4. nice idea.. thanks for sharing..