Marinated Mackerel

Poor Man’s Gravadlax

When mackerel are fine, fat and plentiful, there is no better fish to be bought for the price. They are not only beautiful to look at but are one of the oily fish meant to be so good for you. They must be spanking fresh. I remember once in Ullapool, with its fishing harbour and boats all lined up, that it was impossible to buy a fish in the shops, such is the waywardness of bureaucracy, but you could sometimes gather them when they were dropped by a passing seagull. Slightly damaged maybe, but the fish couldn’t be fresher – they were delicious beyond compare. Marinated like this they are every bit as good as their grander cousins.


  • 2 large mackerel (about 450 g/1 lb each)
  • 2 level tbsp sugar
  • 3 level tbsp sea salt
  • 2 level tsp chopped dill (fresh or freeze-dried)


Have the fish halved and filleted but leave the skins on. Mix all the other ingredients together and rub into both sides of the fillets, leaving the surplus on the cut sides. Stick the sides together to form whole fish, place in a shallow dish, cover with foil and place another dish of similar size and shape on top filled with weights of some sort (jars or tins). Leave in a cool place for 24 hours.

Unwrap; drain off all the liquid and scrape off any of the mixture. Wrap the fish in cling film and chill well or even half freeze (this makes the slicing easier). When the fish is very firm with cold, turn the cut sides upwards and slice down to the skin somewhat diagonally to produce paper thin, almost translucent slices, excluding the skin as for smoked salmon.

Serve with brown bread and butter and the following sauce: Beat 1 egg with 2 level tbsp Dijon mustard, and add ½ tsp caster sugar and a tablespoon of white wine vinegar. Now slowly beat in about 6 tbsp of olive oil as if you were making mayonnaise. Season with a touch of salt and lemon juice and stir in some chopped fresh dill.