Quick soused mackerel with bread-and-butter pickles

Quick soused mackerel with bread-and-butter pickles

The Sunday Night Book
Patricia Niven

When I say quick I don’t mean immediate, but this light summer supper is do-able in a day if you souse the mackerel and make the pickles in the morning to eat that evening. You could also use herrings, sardines or anchovies here. My friend Laura Jackson, co-founder of a wonderful cafe on the Regent’s Canal in East London called Towpath, was my inspiration for this dish – she is a great pickler and always has some deliciously vibrant pickles on the menu.


Quantity Ingredient
2 slices rye bread
60ml creme fraiche
fronds from 3 stalks of dill, finely chopped
sea salt

For the soused mackerel

Quantity Ingredient
1 small carrot, cut into thin rounds
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and finely sliced
1 banana shallot, finely sliced
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 juniper berries
6 tablespoons sugar
300ml white wine vinegar
4 mackerel fillets, cleaned

For the bread-and-butter pickles

Quantity Ingredient
1 small head chicory, cut lengthways into six wedges
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1/2 small cucumber, peeled and finely sliced
1/2 kohlrabi, peeled and finely sliced
250ml cider vinegar
125g sugar
1 bay leaf
1/2 lemon, juiced and zest peeled off in strips


  1. For the soused mackerel, put the carrot, fennel, shallot, coriander and fennel seeds, peppercorns, juniper berries, sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt in a saucepan. Pour in the vinegar and 300 ml water and bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until the carrot is just cooked.
  2. Pat the mackerel fillets dry and place flesh-side down in a shallow glass or ceramic dish. Pour over the sousing liquid and leave to cool, then cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
  3. Next make the bread-and-butter pickles. Take a lidded glass jar or plastic container big enough to hold all the vegetables and put in the chicory, followed by the onion, then the cucumber and the kohlrabi. Put the vinegar, sugar, lemon juice and zest into a small stainless steel saucepan. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 3 minutes. Pour the hot pickling over the vegetables, then seal the container and leave to cool before refrigerating. The pickles are ready after 6–8 hours, but will improve with a few days or even a couple of weeks under their belts.
  4. When you want to eat, lift the mackerel fillets from the sousing liquid and cut in half. Toast the rye bread and serve with the fish and pickles, a dollop of crème fraîche and a scattering of dill.
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