On the barbeque

Mackerel are one of the best fish for the barbeque.

The fact that they need to be cooking so soon after they are out of the water lends them to the impromptu nature of the barbeque. Ideally they need to be eaten in the open air and with your fingers.

There is no magic or science in the barbequing of mackerel. All that is required is the fish out of the sea and the coals dusting down with white ash.

Usually I will put a few slashes down each side of the fish with a sharp knife. If to hand I will then allow it to marinade for half an hour or so in lemon juice and whatever herb or spice might be to hand. Something hot always goes well with mackerel. Perhaps it is the heat cutting through the fatness of the fish. Garlic as well. So if I have it a combination of lemon juice, garlic, paprika and perhaps some cumin.

There is of course something Middle Eastern to these flavourings and I wonder how a teaspoon of honey mixed in with the spices would work with the fish.

Fennel grows wild in and around the garden of the Cottage and before putting the fish on the barbeque I like to pick some fronds and put them on the rack to heat through. It probably makes little difference but it is there and when else are you going to have the opportunity to do that.

The fish should only take a few minutes to cook.

Any flame should have died down and as you pass the back of your hand over the coals you should feel the hairs start to tense. Put on the mackerel.

You will need to be careful as you turn them. Try not to let them burn. But if the fire is at the right temperature it is difficult to stop them as only a few seconds away will have them blackening up. No matter. You won’t be eating the skin just the moist wet flesh underneath.

Pile them on plates and eat them with your fingers tearing the fillets away from the bone.

They can be done just as well on a fire on the beach and of course there is a bit more romance connected with this. Piling carefully chosen stones into a small circle, collecting driftwood and kindling from the beach, trying to keep a match alight for long enough in the wind so that its flame will catch on the screwed up balls of yesterdays paper. You will need a good rack-probably from the barbeque and you will need to be more careful with flames and them burning. But it will feel more elemental and if it goes right you will taste the best fish that there is at its best.

Eating from the fire on the beach is best done in the evening so that the fires heat can make up for the warmth lost as the sun goes down. As it goes dark if there is a full moon a glow will start up behind Mount Gabriel as the moon rises.

If you need some form of relish too go with them I have a feeling that horseradish would work well perhaps with some beetroot. The beetroot boiled in its skin until soft, allowed to cool, then peeled and finely sliced.


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