Spiced Mackerel with Gooseberry & Chilli Chutney

The humble gooseberry, or “goosegog” as it is sometimes affectionately called, is one of the first fruits to appear in spring, it’s rarely finding its way onto our tables for some reason. Gooseberries lack the sweetness of strawberries and raspberries and have a face-puckering tartness that likely is the root of their dwindling popularity, but they were once incredibly popular in Britain, and there’s something about their crisp, sour flavour that I really love.

Gooseberries have been becoming increasingly hard to come by in the UK, so I’ve always tried to take the opportunity when I do find some to stock our freezer. I do know that it’s possible to find them growing wild, and we’ve put in a couple of gooseberry bushes on our allotment which are still fairly small, but here’s hoping for hefty harvests in future years! For this recipe, I had a stash of gooseberries leftover from a PYO adventure last year. I’ve been wondering what to do with them aside from making jam or a gooseberry fool – and by all accounts they make a lovely wine – but at some point over the last couple of weeks an idea formed and it was like a light went on!

Fun gooseberry fact: there’s no word for gooseberry in French, but instead they’re called grosielle à maquereaux which means mackerel currant!

I wanted to try making a gooseberry sauce of some kind, but to be honest we have more than enough jam, and although compote was a good contender because of its versatility, the idea that started to come together was for a chutney to go with some fresh mackerel. I was a bit tentative about making chutney as I usually only make it towards the end of summer ready for colder months to eat with cheese and cold meats so it’s always a lovely rich, dark, yummy recipe. I wanted to make something lighter and more refreshing than my usual style, and I wasn’t sure whether the onions would make it too savoury or clash or overpower the gooseberry flavour, or whether the vinegar would be too much acidity against an already tart berry. I needn’t have worried – it ended up being the perfect combination of sweet and sour but with unmistakably savoury notes and a decent kick from the green chilli. It would be perfect in a ham sandwich, thinned with some water and used as a glaze for a roast pork or chops, or on a cheese toastie, but here it’s in it’s natural habitat, alongside a spiced, grilled mackerel fillet.

Mackerel is really a seasonal fish, migrating to the UK for the warmer summer months, and, as well as being downright delicious, is full of omega-3 fatty acids, and a great source of vitamin B12. The sustainability of mackerel, like many fish, is sometimes questioned as the Marine Stewardship Council removed its sustainable status as of March 2019, so it no longer carries their blue label. However, the Marine Conservation Society who have a great app rating sustainability of different fish, still list mackerel as “choose” and in the sustainability range of 1 to 2 where 1 is the most sustainable and 5 is the least sustainable.

In this recipe, I’ve used one of my favourite ingredients, a whole spice blend of five spices, together called panch phoron, which is used a lot in Bengali cuisine, amongst others. To make it, you combine equal amounts of cumin, fennel, nigella, black mustard, and fenugreek seeds. It gives dishes a warmth and fragrance, a hint of anise, a slight nuttiness, and a satisfying texture without overpowering or clashing with the mackerel. It’s easy enough to make a batch ahead and use it as you like in different recipes, or just use the amounts you need for whatever you’re cooking. I love to use it for this mackerel recipe, but it works wonderfully with potatoes, to flavour dhal & pickles, or lightly toasted and sprinkled over rice. I think it would work beautifully pressed into a flatbread just before cooking too!

The ingredients list might look fairly long here, but this really is a simple recipe, especially if you’re able to make the chutney and panch phoron ahead of time. Then it’s quite literally a case of coating the fish and grilling for a few minutes. It’s quickly becoming a staple in our house, and I hope you’ll give it a try!

Spiced Mackerel with Gooseberry & Chilli Chutney Recipe

Ingredients

For the spiced mackerel:

  • 2 fresh mackerel fillets
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp nigella seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • Salt
  • Olive oil

For the gooseberry chutney:

  • 350g gooseberries (I used green)
  • 1 large green chilli
  • 1/2 onion
  • 100ml cider or white wine vinegar (or a combination of both works well)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 5 coriander seeds
  • 2 bay leaves

Other ingredients:

  • Yoghurt
  • Rice or flatbreads to serve
  • Fresh coriander to garnish

Method

  1. Make the gooseberry & chilli chutney first. Place all of the ingredients apart from sugar into a saucepan and cook gently until the gooseberries soften. Add the sugar and simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until it has reduced down to your desired consistency. Once cooked, set aside to cool before serving.
  2. For the mackerel, toast the whole spices in a dry pan until fragrant. Crush lightly in a pestle and mortar before rubbing on to both sides of each mackerel fillet.
  3. Heat a greased griddle pan and grill the spiced mackerel for 2-3 minutes on each side until cooked.
  4. Serve topped with a generous spoonful of chutney and with rice or flatbreads and yoghurt on the side.

I hope you love this recipe as much as I do and if you don’t make the mackerel you should at least definitely give that chutney a go – it’s one of the recipes I’m most proud of to date! As always, let me know in the comments if you try any of my recipes and feel free to reach out here or on instagram.

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