Mackerel escabeche


In Norway a few summers back, freshly caught mackerel from the fjord were our staple food for the entire week. They were so plentiful that it was easy to catch enough each day to feed four adults and three hungry children. Simply seasoned and grilled on the barbecue, they provided a healthy, filling and delicious dinner each night. However by the end of the holiday we were all ready for something a bit different, but with several mackerel remaining in the fridge we had to get creative with what we already had.

I had my trusty River Cottage Handbook No. 6 with me and leafing through the pages for inspiration I stumbled across a recipe that sounded perfect for the situation: “a great recipe for using up a glut of oily fish, and it’s perfect for large group of fish diners”. The recipe was ‘escabeche’.

Escabeche is a dish that can be found in Latin American and Mediterranean countries and is essentially a hot, vinegary marinade that can be used with meat or fish. I didn’t have all the ingredients mentioned in the book, but managed to cobble together enough leftovers from the fridge and pantry to come up with a reasonable approximation. The end result went down really well among our friends at supper on the final night of a great week.

Here’s how I did it –

  • fillet the mackerel and dip in flour seasoned with salt and pepper;
  • heat some olive oil in a frying pan and fry the fillets until cooked through and golden brown;
  • remove the fillets and put in a serving dish to cool;
  • in the same frying pan, heat plenty of olive oil and fry off some garlic and a finely diced red onion;
  • when the red onion is soft, add a diced tomato and a splash of cider vinegar, together with a squeeze of lemon and orange;
  • simmer until the tomato begins to break down and season to taste with salt, pepper and chilli;
  • finally add in some finely diced carrot and apple for a bit of ‘crunch’; and
  • poor the marinade over the fish fillets and serve with crusty bread for mopping it all up.

If served immediately the marinade will provide a sharp and tangy kick to the oily, meaty fish. Alternatively, the fish can be left to marinade for a few hours, even overnight, which leads to a softer and sweeter marinade for this tapas-style dish. Enjoy!


  • Mackerel
  • Olive oil
  • Cider vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Orange juice
  • Garlic
  • Red onion
  • Tomato
  • Carrot
  • Apple
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Chilli flakes/powder
Good friend Andy Gaines catching mackerel to order – Erfjord, Norway (August 2018)

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