Mackerel with Indian Spices, Lime and Dhal


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


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Appears in

Cooking at the Merchant House

By Shaun Hill

Published 2000

  • About

Sauces like this that would kill the subtlety of white fish such as sole or plaice can work well with robust specimens like mackerel and herring. This particular one has evolved from a strong Indian masala to a spicy, citrusy concoction that counters the rich oiliness of the mackerel beautifully. It’s best served with something of contrasting texture, a crisp green salad perhaps or the carrot fritters.


  • 30g (1oz/2 tablespoons) brown or green lentils
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • a knob of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 150 ml (5fl oz/¾ cup) fish stock or water
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 8 small or 4 large mackerel


Boil the lentils until tender, then drain and set aside until needed.

Fry the onion, garlic, chilli and ginger in vegetable oil until brown, then add the spices and fry for a few seconds more. Add the stock or water and the lentils and simmer for 20 minutes.

Purée the sauce using a food mill or blender. Reheat, adding the lime juice, coriander leaves and chives. Check the seasoning for balance and keep the sauce warm.

In a large pan, fry the mackerel on each side until done. Make a pool of sauce on each plate, place the fish on top and serve.