As part of his Fish Fight, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is encouraging us to eat a more diverse range of fish, and there’s one cheap, sustainable, nutritious and extremely tasty species right at the front of the pack.
Criminally under-valued, mackerel is nothing short of a show-stopper.
Packed with all the right types of fish oil and minerals, it’s plentiful in British waters, easy to catch and it’s quality belies the meager price you’ll pay for it.
Hugh’s big idea is to get mackerel on the menu at the local fish and chip shop, next to cod and haddock. Maybe it could just supplant the major disappointment that is plaice or the abomination of the battered sausage?
In the affection of the chip shop frequenting British public (that’s all of us, non-Brits), cod and haddock reign supreme, with only minor regional swings between the two giants of the white fish world.
In West Yorkshire, it’s haddock all the way, skinned, please.
This might be Hugh’s biggest problem. When we think of fish and chips, we think of a big piece of white fish. Anything else, and I feel cheated.
But setting that aside, what about mackerel?
Could it work?
I decided to have a go myself.
Hugh’s recipe is so simple it isn’t really a recipe, more of a method – dust an un-skinned, pin boned mackerel fillet in seasoned flour, dip it thoroughly in beaten egg and then deep fry for just a couple of minutes until the fillet turns golden and floats to the top of the oil.
Drain the oil from the fillet and serve in a floury bap with tartare sauce, or at a pinch, some mayonnaise perked up with a little lemon juice.
And is it any good?
Yes, it’s incredible. Mackerel has a depth of flavour that’s missing from most white fish, it’s a gutsy contender whose taste isn’t swamped by the light-as-air-almost-batter that Hugh recommends. The combination of sweet, oily mackerel and light, floury bread is a complete revelation.
Would I buy it from a fish and chip shop?
Yes, I think I probably would. The proof is in the eating, and I’m a convert.
Speak to your local chippy and get behind the Mackerel Mission
This is a recipe that’s definitely best cooked by a proper fish and chip shop – if you want to try it, ask your local fish and chip shop to give it a try and add it to their menu.
There’s a lot in it for them:
- mackerel is cheap, so the margins are high
- preparation is falling-off-a-chair simple
- there’s a lot of publicity around the Fish Fight right now, so why not? A pin on the Fish Fight Mackerel Map, mapping chip shops that serve ‘MackBaps’ isn’t going to hurt…
- it’s good for fish welfare in general, which has to be generally good for a fish and chip shop
The method I’ve described above is ludicrously easy, but here’s a film from the Fish Fight website that steps through it and proves the point: