Griddled Mackerel Fillets with Rhubarb


The astringent note from rhubarb makes a brilliant adjunct to any oily fish, fulfilling the same role as lemon or that of gooseberries in a few months’ time.


  • 2 large mackerel, weighing about 300 g (10½ oz) each
  • 1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
  • 3 star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 thin slices of peeled root ginger
  • ½ teaspoon chilli flakes, plus extra for sprinkling (optional)
  • 1 large rhubarb stalk
  • 12 mint or basil leaves
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • salt


Fillet the mackerel. Dip the fillets in very cold water and pat dry on kitchen paper. Refrigerate until ready to use, lightly salting the flesh side 20 minutes before cooking.

Combine the sugar and spices in a very small saucepan and add 100ml ( fl oz) cold water. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Cut the rhubarb into finger lengths and then cut each piece into four batons. Drop these into the syrup and poach them for 2 minutes, or until they just begin to soften. Remove from the heat.

Heat a non-stick frying pan. Place the mackerel fillets, skin-side down, in the dry pan and place a wire rack or plate on top to prevent the fillets from curling and to ensure all the skin is in contact with the hot pan. Leave the fillets to cook for a good 3 minutes – they will release some of their oil as they do so – or until you can see the heat penetrating up through two-thirds of the fillet. Turn them to seal the flesh side very briefly – 30 seconds at most – then lift out of the pan.

Quickly bring the rhubarb back to a simmer. Scatter the mint leaves – torn in half, if large – over the fish, then arrange the rhubarb on top of the fish, spooning over some of the syrup, omitting the star anise, cloves and ginger but including the chilli. Sprinkle a few more chilli flakes over if liked. Drizzle a little olive oil over the fish and serve.

Plain pilaff rice is the best accompaniment.