Grilled mackerel with melting tomatoes

Grilled mackerel with melting tomatoes

Cavala maçaricada em refogado de tomate

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Serves
4
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I remember seeing rows of mackerel lined up in some of my favourite tascas around Lisbon. You’d go in and order one or two fillets and eat them on a small plate with lots of sauce. They’re great enjoyed mid-afternoon, preferably while sitting outside with a nice cold Portuguese beer or a chilled glass of vinho verde. Serve with crusty bread.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

For the cured mackerel

Quantity Ingredient
180g caster sugar
120g fine sea salt
4 strips lemon, zested
4 bay leaves
a small bunch parsley, stalks separated and leaves finely chopped
4 mackerel fillets, pin-boned, skin on

For the sauce

Quantity Ingredient
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 small white onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf
1 long red chilli, deseeded and halved lengthways
12 ripe plum tomatoes, 8 quartered and 4 coarsely grated
chardonnay vinegar, good-quality white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar, to taste
extra-virgin olive oil, to serve
smoked paprika, to taste
sea salt flakes
ground white pepper

Method

  1. To cure the mackerel — In a bowl, mix together the sugar and salt 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 remaining flavourings and sugar-salt mixture. Leave at room temperature for 30 minutes, then rinse off the cure and pat the mackerel dry with kitchen paper.
  2. Preheat the grill to high. Put the mackerel on a baking tray and grill for 2–3 minutes, skin-side up, until the skin colours. Alternatively, use a kitchen blowtorch.
  3. To make the sauce — Heat the olive oil in a pan over a low heat. Add the onions and cook gently for 10 minutes, or until soft. Season with salt, pepper and paprika, then add the garlic, bay leaf and chilli and cook for a few minutes, until fragrant. The trick is to lightly brown the vegetables rather than sweating them to get extra flavour; increase the heat if necessary. Add the quartered tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes, or until they are just starting to break down but are not mushy. Remove the pan from the heat, add a splash of vinegar and a little chopped parsley and check the seasoning. Allow the sauce to cool. Just before serving, add the grated tomatoes.
  4. To serve, spoon a layer of the sauce onto a large serving dish and place the cured mackerel on top. Finish with another layer of sauce and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. This is better after it has been left to marinate for a little while, even until the next day; try it for yourself and see.
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