Grilled Mackerel with Gooseberry Relish


Fogg may have been fastidious about his daily serving of boiled fish with sauce, but the very idea brings to mind a fair few school dinners my tastebuds would rather forget. Pallid plaice begone — catch of the day is Sybil Kapoor’s recipe for succulent mackerel served with sweet, oozy gooseberry relish (which can be cooked well ahead and, if stored correctly, keeps for a good long time). Sybil is a modern-day Elizabeth David and I think Mrs David would have been excited by the idea of a dish that echoes the kitchens of Alexis Soyer at the Reform Club.


  • 4 medium-sized mackerel, filleted
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon wedges, to serve

For the Gooseberry Relish

  • 85g/3oz granulated sugar
  • 1 small fresh chilli — red or green — seeded and finely diced
  • 2.5cm/1 inch stick of cinnamon
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 1 blade of mace
  • 2 strips of lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 100ml/fl oz water
  • 350g/12oz gooseberries


Put the sugar, chilli, spices, lemon peel, vinegar and water into a pan and place over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer for a few minutes, then add the gooseberries. Give them a good stir, then cover and leave to simmer for 6—8 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the gooseberries from the pan and place them in a clean bowl, leaving the spices in the syrup. Boil the liquid until it is thick and even more syrupy, then carefully pour it into the bowl with the gooseberries, removing the whole spices as you do so. Mix well and set aside to cool.

Preheat the grill to high and line your grill pan with foil. Place the mackerel fillets on a board, flesh side down, and with a sharp knife lightly make three evenly spaced slashes diagonally across the skin of each fillet. Brush each fillet with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Put the fish on your grill pan, skin side up, and place under the grill. As soon as the skins start to blister and turn golden, turn the fillets over and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Serve with lemon wedges and a generous spoonful of your gooseberry relish.