Whole mackerel with gooseberry sauce

Whole mackerel with gooseberry sauce

Leiths How to Cook
Peter Cassidy


Quantity Ingredient
350g gooseberries, fresh or frozen
2 cm piece fresh root ginger
30g caster sugar, plus extra to taste
30g butter
4 whole mackerel, each about 250–350 g
2 lemons


  1. To make the sauce, top and tail the gooseberries. Peel and finely grate enough ginger to give you ½ teaspoon.
  2. Put the gooseberries in a small saucepan with 1–2 tablespoon water and the sugar. Place over a low to medium heat and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Pass the gooseberries through a fine sieve into a bowl, add the ginger to taste and beat in the butter, which should melt in the residual heat of the gooseberries. Taste and add more sugar if necessary; the sauce should retain some sharpness to act as a foil for the richness of the mackerel. Set aside; keep warm.
  4. Heat the grill to its highest setting.
  5. Remove the fins, except for the dorsal fin, and gills from the mackerel, then gut them. Rinse well under cold water, then dry with kitchen paper. Juice one of the lemons. Cut the other lemon into wedges; set aside for serving.
  6. Using a sharp knife, make 3 slashes in the sides of each mackerel. Season with salt and a drizzle of lemon juice and place on a lipped baking sheet.
  7. Grill the fish for 5–8 minutes, allowing the skin to brown and blister. It is cooked when the eyes have turned opaque and the dorsal fin pulls out easily. Carefully open the belly and check that the flesh around the back bone is opaque.
  8. Place the fish on a serving platter and arrange the lemon wedges around the fish. Serve the sauce separately.


  • Larger mackerel may need to finish cooking in an oven preheated to 180°C for 3–6 minutes, depending on size, after being grilled.


  • Mackerel with rhubarb purée: Omit the gooseberry sauce. Trim the ends off 2–3 rhubarb sticks and cut into 2–3 cm pieces. Put into a roasting tin with 2 tablespoons caster sugar, cover with foil and roast in an oven preheated to 180ºC until tender. Remove and allow to cool. Sieve the rhubarb, pushing through as much of it as possible to create a purée. Taste and season with finely grated fresh ginger, as for the main recipe, and caster sugar, to retain some sharpness.

    Mackerel with a spicy tamarind chutney: Omit the gooseberry sauce. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a saucepan over a low heat. Add 1 shallot, peeled and very finely diced, and sauté for 3–4 minutes until softening. Add 3 crushed garlic cloves and cook for 1 minute; do not allow the garlic to burn. Add a 400 g tin chopped tomatoes, increase the heat and simmer vigorously for 4–5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon tamarind paste, 20 ml rice wine vinegar, 75 ml malt vinegar, 1–2 tablespoons peeled and finely grated fresh ginger, 1–2 tablespoons palm (or brown) sugar, 1 tablespoons light soy, a large pinch of crushed dried chillies, 1 teaspoon ground coriander and ½ teaspoon ground cumin. Bring to the boil and cook until the sauce has reduced and is thick and pulpy. Taste and season with salt. It should be sour, hot and sweet.
Leiths School of food and wine
cookery course
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