Mackerel en Papillote with Tarragon and Caper Sauce

Baking individual fish wrapped in their own little paper parcels keeps in all the flavour and juices and looks exciting. Mackerel has remained comparatively cheap and being an oily fish is very nutritious, moist textured and full of flavour. If you can get fresh tarragon for the sauce it makes a lot of difference but dried will do.


  • 1 fairly small mackerel per person – gutted but with heads left on
  • 1–2 bay leaves per fish
  • butter

For the Sauce

  • about 1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon
  • 2–3 teaspoons capers – roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon French mustard
  • 1 oz butter (25 g)
  • 1 oz cornflour (25 g)
  • ¾ pint milk (425 ml)
  • 1 egg yolk – beaten lightly
  • a little cream or top of the milk
  • salt, black pepper


Cut a piece of greaseproof paper to wrap each fish up in and butter the paper. Put the bay leaves inside the fish where they have been gutted. Wrap each fish up in paper and twist the ends to seal. Bake on a baking sheet or tray in the centre of the oven at Gas 5 (375°F/190°C) for 20–25 minutes.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Take off the heat and blend in the cornflour. Stir in the milk. Bring to boil and simmer gently for 3 minutes, stirring. Add salt, pepper, tarragon, capers and mustard and simmer another minute. Take off the heat, stir in a little cream and lightly beaten egg yolk and pour into a sauce jug. Serve with the mackerel. It is best to put the paper parcels on each person’s plate; they can unwrap them and push the fish gently off the paper – you will need a bowl or a bin nearby for the discarded paper. Broccoli would go very well with this, and some new or plain boiled potatoes.