Certain ingredients are so under-estimated that we seen to forget just how good they are when perfectly fresh and cooked with a little care and attention.

This week I wandered around the fish market and noticed that little by little, as we move into the high season, fresh fish prices are starting to escalate. It’s getting harder and harder to find a bargain, but there are a few exceptions that are big on flavour and come with a small price tag. One such ingredient is Mackerel. I know they sometimes get a bit of bad press, but for me they are always a real treat. Mackerel is a firmed fleshed, oily fish, very flavoursome and moist with a tender flesh. It has a distinctive silver-blue skin with dark bands and a
pale belly. Their skin should shine, if it doesn't, don't buy them. Mackerel is a
delicious nutritious and sustainable fish, with intense creamy meat packed with omega-3 fatty acids.

They have been a consistently popular fish throughout European history. The Romans used mackerel to make garum, a fermented fish sauce similar to those essential to Thai and Vietnamese cooking today. They are good grilled, Pan-fried, barbecued or poached in white wine. Stuffed mackerel is also a popular option. The work well with sweet and sour ingredients along with mustard, horseradish and curry powder. Due to mackerel's richness, cream or butter-based sauces are best avoided.

Another fantastic inexpensive treat are fresh sardines. I know a lot of people refuse to eat them, but they are really missing out. The humble sardine is great in about 100 different ways, and is also loaded with Omega-3s and calcium. In addition, some people are turning to sardines since they are at the bottom of the aquatic food chain, feeding solely on plankton, you don’t have as many concerns with mercury and other toxins that can accumulate in larger predator fish like tuna…and they are sustainable.

Sardines are named after Sardinia, the Italian island where large schools of these fish were once found. They date back to time immemorial, but it was the emperor Napoleon Bonaparte who helped to popularize these little fish by initiating the canning of sardines, the first fish ever to be canned, in order to feed the citizens of the land over which he presided. The aroma of fresh sardines being grilled over hot coals is one of my all time favourite cooking smells and they are just delicious coated with olive oil, garlic and parsley. 


Ingredients:         serves 4

4                  fillets of Mackerel (150g each)

Tomato & Sesame Vinaigrette.
2         tomatoes, peeled & diced
50ml         Olive oil
1tsp         sesame seeds, toasted
1tbsp         fresh coriander
1tsp         preserved lemons, finely chopped

Baba Ganoush (Aubergine Dip)
This smoky, lightly spiced aubergine purée can be mixed with a little yogurt for a more mellow flavour.

2         large aubergines
2         garlic cloves
½ tsp          salt
2 tbsp         lemon juice
2 tbsp         sesame seeds
         pinch ground cumin
         Pinch ground white pepper
2tbsp         natural yogurt
          Extra virgin olive oil, to serve
2tbsp         Chopped flat leaf parsley

Preheat the grill to high. Prick the aubergines with a fork and grill them, turning occasionally, until the skin blisters and blackens all over. When cool, peel off the skin. Leave the aubergine flesh in a colander for 15 minutes to drain off excess liquid.
Pound the garlic and salt in a food processor. Add the aubergine flesh, lemon juice, sesame seeds, cumin, pepper and yogurt. Blend to a thick purée. Adjust the seasoning. Transfer to a bowl, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Mix all the ingredients together and leave to sit for 2 or 3 minutes

To serve:
Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Season the fish fillets and fry them skin side down in the hot oil until crisp and golden brown. Turn over the fillets and place in a moderate oven for 2-3 minutes to finish cooking.
Place a spoonful of baba ganoush in the centre of 4 serving plates. Lay the fish fillets on top and place a spoonful of vinaigrette over the fish. Serve immediately.


Ingredients                  serves 4

12 sardines, cleaned (Gutted, scaled and heads removed)
50g seasoned flour
200ml olive oil
100ml sherry vinegar
1 medium onion, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, crushed
5 cm strip of Orange Zest
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 fresh bay leaf
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 dried red chillies
1 teaspoon salt
1 small bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Dry the sardines, then dust them in the seasoned flour. Fry them in half the olive oil for 1 minute on each side, then transfer to a shallow dish. Add everything except the parsley and the remaining oil to the pan, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 15 minutes. Add the parsley and the rest of the olive oil, pour the hot marinade over the sardines and leave until cold.