Pickled mackerel with potatoes and watercress

Pickled mackerel with potatoes and watercress

Tara Fisher

I love pickled fish: prepared nicely, it’s one of the best ways of showing off the flavour. Mackerel is a great fish and we should all eat more of it, instead of relying on the usual cod and haddock. It’s best eaten fresh, and pickling it means you can preserve all that delicious flavour in the fish.


Quantity Ingredient
2 whole mackerel, filleted, skinned and pin bones removed
2 shallots
1 red chilli
2 garlic cloves
250ml malt vinegar
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 unwaxed lemon, finely grated zest and juiced

Potatoes and watercress:

Quantity Ingredient
300 garlic cooked new potatoes
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 bunches watercress
1 tablespoon sultanas
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


  1. Place the mackerel fillets in a shallow ovenproof dish, flesh-side down. Set aside. Thinly slice the shallots, deseed and finely dice the chilli and crush the garlic cloves. Place them in a saucepan along with the vinegar, bay leaf, spices, lemon zest and juice, and 125ml water. Heat gently to warm through, then pour the liquid over the mackerel. Cover with foil and leave to marinate for 1 hour in the fridge.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the potatoes in half and place them in a mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with a little of the oil, stir together lightly and set aside. Pick the leaves from 1 bunch of watercress (reserving the stalks) and set aside.
  3. Prepare a bowl of cold water with ice. Bring a pan of water to the boil, add a pinch of salt, then add the second bunch of watercress and the stalks from the first bunch, and cook for 20 seconds. Remove and plunge into the ice-cold water. Using your hands, squeeze most of the water out of the watercress and place it in a blender. Process to a fine purée, adding a little of the cooking water if necessary, and set aside.
  4. To serve, spoon a little of the watercress purée into the centre of the plate and spread it out to form a circle using the back of the spoon. Scatter the potatoes on top, along with the watercress leaves. Lift the mackerel fillets out of the marinade and place on top of the salad. Sprinkle with the sultanas and spoon a little of the mackerel pickling liquor over the top. Finish with a drizzle of oil.
James Martin
Saturday Kitchen
slow cooking
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