Recipe: BBQ Mackerel Over Bay – River Cottage

Original post from: Dogtooth Tuna Company

When you BBQ mackerel that you have caught yourself can be the freshest meal and most rewarding feeling you can have. Its the primal combination of catching your food, grilling it over an open fire then eating it all in the same day. Add your garden (or other open space), friends, family and a cold drink – you are officially a higher primate in his modern element.


  • Mackerel
  • Olive oil
  • Half a dozen branchlets of bay leaves (i.e. a few dozen leaves on the stalk)
  • A lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

From the book:¬†Hugh and Nick’s all-time favourite fish for barbecuing is mackerel. This is partly because its firm, slightly oily flesh responds beautifully to the searing, charring heat. But it’s also because barbecued mackerel has a certain emotional significance. It s a fish that’s plentiful and easy to catch, and they’ve lost count of the times they’ve cooked up a good haul of it in the open air, surrounded by family and friends. Tucking bay leaves into the cavity of the fish can impart a subtle flavour but, being big fans of bay, they sometimes really go to town and grill the fish on top of whole branches of it. A word of warning: make sure you take them from a strong, established tree. They once had a young bay shrub that fell foul to an enthusiastic pruning prior to a mackerel barbecue … it never quite recovered.


Gut your mackerel and rinse with cold water. Pat dry with a clean cloth or kitchen paper, then massage each fish with a few drops of olive oil. Season the mackerel well, inside and out, with salt and pepper.

Make sure your barbecue is hot and ready to cook over. Put the grill over the coals and give it a good few minutes to heat up, then lay a thin bed of bay leaves on the hot grill and lay your mackerel on top of that. Drizzle a little olive oil over the fish and add a squeeze or two of lemon juice. The bay will crackle and pop over the heat of the fire and release lots of perfumed smoke. It’s quite normal to see a few shooting flames at this point, too. Don’t be alarmed; this is all good and sends the flavour of the bay deep into the fish.

Turn the fish after 5 minutes and cook for a few minutes longer, until the flesh is opaque all the way through.

Serve straight away, with salsa verde if you like, plus a green salad, and some new potatoes lightly bashed and tossed with oil or butter.

Or, for a more simple approach, serve with a lemony mayonnaise and some good bread.

The Best Way To Cook Your Freshly Caught Fish

A freshly caught fish can be cooked in a thousand and one ways, do you already have a preference? Any fisherman worth his salt has his own unique way of cooking a freshly caught trout, salmon or whatever fish he caught. So fisherman all across the country has been handed down methods of cooking fish. Here are some tips to get the best out of your fish.


Breading and frying a freshly caught fish can be as good as it gets. The smell of butter emanating from the frying pan and the flair a fisherman puts in flipping his catch is worth its weight in gold, almost. For the novice chief, make sure that the butter is extra hot but not yet burning. Also, make sure that the fish is well coated in batter. Season your batter to your heart’s content, salt and pepper never goes wrong. You may want to try other herbs and spices with the batter for a more delicious fish.


At first glance, grilling would seem to be the easiest way to handle your fish. A newbie might assume that grilling fish is the same as grilling steaks or burgers. Unlike fowl or cattle, fish tends to secret most of its own juices when cooked. On a grill the delicious juice drips into the coals.

To prevent losing the moisture, first coat the fish with oil. The oil will seal a part of the moisture inside. Second, keep an eye on the fillets and turn them as soon as a cut would reveal that the fresh fish is cooked halfway through. After being flipped, watch the fish carefully. Remove the fish as soon as it is cooked through.

An option to basting the fish with oil is to wrap it in aluminum foil. The aluminum foil will keep the moisture and marinate the fish in its own moisture. Placing herbs and spices inside the foil with the fish enhances the grilling process and the fish itself.


Baking is the best option for the fisherman who does not want to watch over the fish during cooking. The fisherman can prepare the marinade and pre-heat the oven, then pop the fish into the oven for a predetermined amount of time. You may want to check on the fish from the time to time, ensuring that you don’t overcook the fish.

Whatever fish you caught, a good recipe and proper cooking will for sure enhance the catch. Take time to prepare for cooking, a badly cooked fish will no doubt spoil your day. Remember the first rule of cooking, don’t overcook your fish.