Weekend Recipe | Grilled Mackerel with Hay Smoked Beetroot


The most stylish fish dish you ever did see. Brighten up a grey weekend with this recipe for grilled mackerel with hay smoked beetroot and sunflower seeds courtesy of The Unruly Pig in Suffolk.

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 x whole mackerel (approx. 400g fish), gutted, cleaned and trimmed

320g sunflower seeds

150ml sunflower oil

3 large beetroot

2 baby beetroot

Good quality white wine vinegar

Approx. 15 fronds of chives finely snipped

1 shallot finely chopped

Quarter of lemon for juice

120g fresh goat’s curd

A couple of handfuls of natural untreated hay (you could get this from a farm shop or even a pet shop!)



Begin with the beetroot. First blacken them- we do this directly over charcoal on our Inka grill but you could do it on a BBQ or directly on a chargrill. Just put them straight on without oil so that they char and blacken.

Put the hay into an old thick bottomed pot or roasting dish and set it on fire (be careful!), chuck the beetroots in and cover tightly with foil, then roast in the oven at 165°C for 45mins-1hour. Check that they’re cooked by poking with the tip of a small knife- there should be little resistance. Scrape off the skins and allow to cool a bit before cutting into chunky wedges.

We use baby heritage beetroots for pickled beets but they will probably be hard to get hold of so you could use regular baby or young beets. Slice them razor thin- we use a mandolin slicer but if you don’t have one you could use a peeler. Stamp them into neat circles and place straight into the vinegar for at least an hour. It’s crucial that you use decent vinegar here.

Cook the sunflower seeds in boiling slightly salted water for 5-6 minutes until they start to become tender but still retain a bite. Refresh under cold running water to cool down, drain well and then lay out on a tray to dry out a bit.

Heat the sunflower oil to 160°C and then fry off half the seeds for 30 seconds to go crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a tray or plate.

Briefly sweat the shallot in a drop of oil, add the blanched sunflower seeds, warm through and then mix through the crispy seeds. Finish with the chives and a squeeze of lemon juice, and add salt if needed.

Grill or BBQ the mackerel until nice and crispy and just cooked in the middle, this depends on the heat of your grill and the size of your fish but it could be anything from 2-4 minutes each side. Check the resistance with your knife again as you did the beetroot.

Reheat the beets and serve, crumbling the goat’s curd over the sunflower seeds.

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