Friday, 27 January 2012

Baked mackerel stuffed with preserved lemon

Mackerel is one of my favourite fish. The fact that it's both cheap and nutritionally sound is a bonus on top of its creamy, fleshy texture and delicate yet pronounced flavour. I regularly buy smoked fillets to toss into a salad, but fresh mackerel can't be beat, in my book, and it's amazingly versatile as it will stand up to being matched with all manner of robust flavours.

Ideally, I'd grill mackerel or barbecue it to do it justice but in my small, balcony-less flat neither of these are an option, so I settle for baking instead. This takes less than 10 minutes to prepare and only 20 minutes to cook, and you can grill it if you prefer.

What you need:
1 fresh mackerel, cleaned
A generous handful of fresh flatleaf parsley
Olive oil
A small clove of garlic
Black pepper
1 medium or 2 small preserved lemons

What to do:
Heat the oven to 220C. Chop the parsley very finely and crush the garlic into a pulp. Finely chop a small preserved lemon and combine all three in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil. Season with the pepper.

Rinse the fish under the cold tap, making sure the cavity is clean. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Make three slashes on each side of the fish, right through to the bone. Put on a baking tray and stuff the cavity with the parsley and lemon mixture. Slice the other preserved lemon and arrange on top of the fish. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

Eat with a green salad and boiled new potatoes.

Cook's tips:
The fishmonger should have already descaled the fish but ask him to gut it too. I usually ask them to take the head off as well. At home, I remove any stray fins or gills with a sharp pair of scissors.

Mackerel is quite bony, so if you don't like dealing with the bones ask the fishmonger to fillet the fish and sandwich the two halves together with the stuffing.

I usually mash up the stuffing in a pestle and mortar once I've done the initial chopping.