Grilled Harissa Mackerel


We’ve been exploring a lot of Asian flavours lately, inspired no doubt still by Japanese travels. But the food of North Africa and the Middle East is still close to my heart. It’s what I was raised on as a baby (tehina and hummus is naturally the best babyfood) and I still love to experiment with Middle Eastern flavours.

It’s quite usual now to see meat tagines, kebabs and other meaty Middle Eastern delights in this country now, but what you definitely don’t see enough of is how this kind of spicing might pair with fish.

Mackerel is one of the most underrated fish there is. It’s incredibly cheap (we got 3 whole fish for £5 which is easily enough for 2 meals). It’s also fantastically healthy. As an oily fish it’s beneficial for your heart and eyes plus it’s packed with protein for all you aspiring body builders out there!

Please don’t be put off by the oily aspect, for years I wouldn’t eat mackerel thinking it was too ‘fishy’ flavoured but was surprised when I tried it to find it was actually quite delicate, full of umami flavour and not fishy at all.

As it has this fuller flavour, it works brilliantly with spicing. This is a recipe inspired by the flavours of Morocco, packed with spice but not overly complicated. Worth a try for something different!

4 fresh mackerel fillets
100g cous cous
1/2 cube vegetable stock
2 tbsp toasted flaked almonds
2 spring onions
Small handful of fresh flat parsley and coriander
1/2 lemon

For the harissa sauce:
1 roasted red pepper (take 1 pepper, deseed and roast for 20 mins, or buy ready roasted in a jar)
1 large red chilli
1 inch piece fresh ginger
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp ras el hanout (you can buy this spice mix at most supermarkets now or make it at home using this recipe).
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

1. To make the harissa sauce blend all of the ingredients together in a small food processor (or pound in a pestle and mortar).
2. Fillet the mackerel (or get your fishmonger to do it for you if you don’t fancy testing your knife skills!) and score the skin several times on each fillet with a sharp knife.
3. Marinade the fillets in just enough harissa to coat them. Leave to marinate for 30 mins.
4. Whilst marinating the fish, prepare the cous cous by placing it in a large bowl.
5. Prepare the stock and pour over the cous cous with enough to cover it with about half a centimeter above extra.
6. Quickly cover with a plate, making sure it’s sealed for about 5 mins until it’s soft and fluffy and has absorbed all the water.
7. Add a glug of olive oil, the toasted almonds and finely chop the spring onion, parsley and coriander and add. Mix together.
8. Place a large griddle pan on a high heat.
9. Place the marinated mackerel fillets skin down in the sizzling hot pan.
10. Cook for roughly 2 mins on each side (no more or it will overcook and be tough).
11. Serve fresh out of the pan with the cous cous, and some more of the harissa sauce.
12. Garnish with some torn coriander leaves, parsley and a squeeze of lemon.

Harissa deliciousness.

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