Our resident chef Mark Hix heads out on the high seas in search of mackerel

 
Mark Hix
The Final Cadgwith Fishing Competition Of The 2013 Season
Source: Getty

This glorious weather we’ve been having meant I could take my boat out for the the first time last week, and although the fishing wasn’t great, the sunshine made it all worthwhile.

Some might say it’s a waste of a trip, but if you ask me the simple pleasure of getting out on the water is what fishing is all about.

I did catch my first mackerel of the season however, and as small as they are they’re one of the best eating fish in our local waters. I savoured it for my breakfast the next day, cooking it with fresh Isle of Wight tomato and wild fennel salsa from my garden, with a little chopped chilli thrown in too. There are few better breakfasts to eat while overlooking the sea.

In the season when the sea is bubbling with these little scavengers I can catch a hundred in half an hour, which I send straight into HIX Oyster and Fish House. I’ll sometimes save a few for myself, filleting and preserving them in kilner jars with rapeseed oil and flavourings like fennel, chilli and cumin. It’s a treat in the cold months.

Catching mackerel is great way to get kids into fishing too, and will help them appreciate that simple things from the sea can taste fantastic. A bit of fish handling from a charter boat skipper can teach them an awful lot of common sense and safety at sea as well.

Mackerel with tomato and wild fennel salsa recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 large or 4 small mackerel, filleted and boned
  • Rapeseed or olive oil for frying
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A few sprigs of wild fennel

For the salsa

  • 4 medium to large ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 spring onion, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1 small chilli, trimmed and finely chopped
  • A few sprigs of wild fennel or dill, chopped
  • 3-4 tbs rapeseed or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1tsp sumac (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

First make the salsa, mix all of the ingredients together and season to taste. Cut the mackerel fillets down the centre and cut each of the pieces into 3, depending on the size, larger fillets into say 4. Heat the oil in preferably a non stick frying pan, season the pieces of mackerel and fry them briefly for a minute or so on a high heat.

Arrange on serving plates with the salsa and scatter with the wild fennel.

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