This dish combines many of my favourite ingredients. I was first introduced to the idea of serving mackerel with dates in the wonderful book Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons by Diana Henry. I’ve added blood orange, tahini, toasted pine nuts, and caramelized onions for a dish that is as vibrant and luxurious as it is healthy. I like to serve this with wilted spinach and boiled giant couscous, but bulgur wheat or freekeh would also work well. Try doubling the dating salsa and serving it with cold meats, smoked fish, or – my favorite way – with pan-fried halloumi. I hope it becomes a new kitchen staple.
For the blood orange salsa
15g pine nuts
80g (about 4) Medjool dates, stoned and chopped
1 green chili, deseeded and very finely chopped
3cm piece of ginger root, peeled and very finely chopped
zest of 1 blood orange and juice of ½
1 tablespoon good-quality olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt flakes
15g coriander, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
For the mackerel
2 tablespoons rapeseed or olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
a pinch of salt, plus extra to season
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 mackerel fillets
The Recipe Instructions
First, make the salsa. Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan over medium heat for a couple of minutes (watch them like a hawk so they don’t burn), until golden, then set aside to cool. Place the date pieces in a small bowl. Add the chili, ginger, blood orange zest and juice, olive oil, and salt, and season with a good grinding of pepper. Then, add the chopped coriander and the toasted pine nuts. Stir well and set aside.
Make the mackerel. Heat half the rapeseed or olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, then add the onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 10–20 minutes, until the onions are soft and caramelised – do not allow them to burn (you may need to turn the heat down).
While the onions are cooking, put the tahini, lemon juice, and garlic in a small jug. Add a little water, whisking well, then continue to add water (you’ll need about 30–50ml in total) until you have a sauce a little thicker than double cream. Taste and season with salt and pepper, as necessary.
When the onions are ready, divide them between two plates. Heat the remaining rapeseed or olive oil in the frying pan over high heat. Season the mackerel fillets well on both sides, then add them to the pan, skin-side down. Cook for 2–3 minutes without moving the fillets (this helps the skin to crisp up) and until you can see that they are nearly opaque on the side facing you. Then, flip them over and cook for a further 1 minute, until the flesh is opaque all the way through (you can check gently with a sharp knife).
Place the mackerel fillets on top of the caramelized onions, then drizzle over the tahini sauce. Garnish with a spoonful of the blood orange salsa and serve immediately, with the remaining salsa on the side and some wilted spinach and couscous or bulgur wheat.