Cured mackerel with tomatoes and fennel

Cured mackerel with tomatoes and fennel

Cavala marinada com tomate e funcho

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For many years there was a tendency to overcook fish in Portugal, but more recently we have started to appreciate the incredible flavour of raw mackerel. The sweetness and fattiness of the fish from cold Portuguese waters is very similar to the mackerel available in the UK, so this recipe translates well. Good-quality fish such as this doesn’t need much else – it’s a case of following the seasons and pairing it with ingredients that will naturally offset its richness. Early summer tomatoes, still not totally sweet, work perfectly, and at peak season, berries or stone fruits would be excellent too. It’s simple but beautiful.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

For the cured mackerel

Quantity Ingredient
90g caster sugar
60g fine sea salt
2 strips lemon, zested
2 bay leaves
a small handful parsley, leaves picked and stalks separated
2 mackerel fillets, pin-boned and skin removed

For the tomatoes and fennel

Quantity Ingredient
200g ripe cherry tomatoes
1 small fennel bulb
a few sprigs marjoram
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
chardonnay vinegar or good-quality white wine vinegar, to taste
sea salt flakes
ground white pepper

Method

  1. To cure the mackerel — Whisk together the sugar and salt in a bowl until well combined, then spread half the mixture over the base of a small tray. Add half the lemon zest, bay leaves and parsley stalks. Put the fish on top and cover with the rest of the flavourings and sugar-salt mixture. Leave to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then rinse off the cure and pat dry with kitchen paper. Dice the mackerel into bite-sized pieces.
  2. To prepare the tomatoes and fennel — Slice the tomatoes in half horizontally through the equator. Put them in a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Using a mandolin or a sharp knife, shave the fennel very thinly. Add the fennel and marjoram to the tomatoes. Stir in the olive oil and vinegar and leave to marinate for 2 hours at room temperature.
  3. Arrange the mackerel on a serving plate with the fennel and tomatoes. I love this with a slice of crusty bread and a generous glug of olive oil.
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