Spiced Stuffed Mackerel

Uskumru Dolması

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


Appears in

Yashim Cooks Istanbul

Yashim Cooks Istanbul

By Jason Goodwin

Published 2016

  • About

Here are instructions for Yashim’s recipe on the previous page. This is pure Istanbul – snazzy and delicious. These days the mackerel sold in Istanbul fishmarkets is mostly Norwegian, but if you can source it really fresh there is no other fish to beat it. You want a large mackerel for this bejewelled feast, or it will get too fiddly.


For the Stuffing

  • shallots 4-5
  • olive oil
  • pine nuts 2 tbsp
  • blanched almonds 2 tbsp, slivered
  • walnuts 3 tbsp, finely chopped
  • currants 1-2 tbsp, soaked in warm water for ten minutes and drained
  • dried apricots 6-8, finely chopped
  • cinnamon 2 tsp, ground
  • allspice 1 tsp, ground
  • cloves ½ tsp, ground
  • kirmizi biber 1 tsp, or ½ tsp
  • chillipowder
  • sugar 1 tsp
  • fresh mackerel, 1 large
  • dill and parsley small bunches, finely chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • plain flour
  • sunflower oil
  • salt and pepper


  • First make the stuffing. Chop the shallots up fine, and sweat them in olive oil in a frying pan. Add the three kinds of nuts. As they begin to colour, throw in the currants, apricots, spices, kirmizi biber and sugar and mix well. Slide the pan off the heat while you prepare the fish.
  • With the mackerel belly up, use a sharp knife to make an incision behind the gills, keeping the backbone and head intact and attached. Remove the guts with your fingers through the opening, and rinse the mackerel under the tap.
  • Lay the mackerel on a board and beat it lightly with a rolling pin, or an empty bottle, making sure you break the backbone into pieces. Massage the skin gently, to loosen it from the flesh. Working from the tail towards the head, squeeze the flesh and bones out through the incision below the gills.
  • It is not easy. Go gently, trying not to tear the skin, as if you were squeezing a tube of toothpaste. You are left with an empty skin, still attached to the head. Rinse it out.
  • Pick the bones from the meat and discard them. Fold the meat gently into the stuffing mixture, cooking for a minute or two before adding the herbs, the lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Let the mixture cool a bit. Holding the mackerel’s head back, use a teaspoon to fill the empty skin, shaking and squeezing the stuffing right down to the tail-end. It looks like a mackerel again.
  • You can roll the fish in flour and fry it, or brush with oil and set it under the grill, hot, until the skin begins to blister.
  • Finally, with a very sharp knife, slice the mackerel thickly, lay it on a plate like the fish it is, and serve with lemon wedges.