August 13th 2010
Mackerel is a cheap, sustainable fish which has a high omega 3 content. On a weight basis, it has about double the omega 3 to that in salmon. Mackerel is extremely good for you, though it’s perhaps a little underrated because it has lots of bones. A quick and easy way of removing those bones is by filleting.
To fillet a Mackerel, or fish of a similar shape:
If you are going to do this often, it’s worth buying a fish filleting knife. A sharp, good quality knife, about 16 cm long with a thin blade, that bends a little, is ideal.
First gut your fish, slit along the stomach from the anal vent (it’s obvious) to the head, carefully, you don’t want to cut open the contents of the stomach (it’s messy). Gently put your fingers inside and around the contents and pull everything out – discard it all. Next chop off the head. Now is a good time to rinse the fish under the cold tap to remove any blood or stomach contents. Pat dry with some kitchen towel.
Cut a small incision along the back of the fish, about 1 cm deep. Lay the mackerel flat on the chopping board with its tail towards you and cut into the last piece of flesh before the tail, holding the knife parallel to the fish, slide it along the back bone, away from you, with your free hand holding the fish down and being careful not to get your fingers in the way of the blade. Turn the fish over and cut off the fillet on the other side in the same way. This is quite easy and you should get the hang of it quickly.
If you really hate fish bones, there will be a few pin bones remaining in the fillet, you can remove them with tweezers or needle nose pliers.
Good fishmongers and even some supermarkets will perform the gutting and filleting for you.
Heat some butter in a frying pan (you can also use extra virgin olive oil or a combination of olive oil and butter) and when the butter starts to bubble, add the mackerel, skin side down. Cook on a medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes depending on the size of the fish. When you can see that the skin side is crispy and the edges of the top side are looking cooked, flip the fillet over for about a minute. Don’t overcook fish or it will fall apart.
Serve your fillets on a bed of salad or with potatoes and other vegetables. A wedge of lemon or freshly squeezed lemon juice adds some extra flavour – don’t forget a little sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste.
Mackerel are easy to catch (though generally one has to be on a boat), using a hand line with 6 or more feathers you can catch 6 fish at a time if your boat crosses a shoal of fish. It’s almost as if they want you to catch them (that’s what I tell the vegetarians). For the more adventurous, freshly caught mackerel can be filleted on the boat and served immediately, raw, as sashimi.