With its shimmering midnight-blue and deep-green skin, striped in waves of velvet black, the mackerel is a beautiful fish. It is also very nutritious, smooth and melting in consistency, rich in flavour and inexpensive — a word that applies to few fish nowadays.
Mackerel should be absolutely fresh; avoid any with dull, sunken eyes or less than shiny skin. Ask the fishmonger to clean and gut the fish but to leave the heads on.
Slice the lemons across very thinly. Peel the onion and slice it as thinly as possible into rings; use a food processor if you have one. Arrange the lemon and onion slices alternately underneath and on top of the fish. Bring the foil up
To check whether the fish is cooked, insert a small knife to see if the flesh is opaque to the bone. Unwrap one end of the foil and pour the juices out into a saucepan. Then unwrap the foil completely and push the mackerel gently on to a large warmed serving dish. Arrange the lemon and onion slices on and around the fish. Pour the cream into the saucepan with the juices and add the toasted pine kernels and the remaining chopped dill. Bring to the boil and bubble for a minute. Season to taste with black pepper and more salt if necessary. Pour the sauce into a jug to serve with the fish.
© 1997 Josceline Dimbleby. All rights reserved.