Mackerel is one of the most popular fish in the world and common in the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean (on both its American and European sides) and the Mediterranean. The name mackerel can describe fish of very disparate shapes and sizes, with some very small and others weighing up to 15 kilograms.
Mackerel is one of the most popular fish in the world and common in the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean (on both its American and European sides) and the Mediterranean. The name mackerel can describe fish of very disparate shapes and sizes, with some very small and others weighing up to 15 kilograms. But all belong to the same large family of fish, the Scrombridae, which also includes tuna.
All the various types of mackerel have a streamlined muscular body with tapered head and a rounded, fork-shaped tail. The fish is an iridescent golden or bluish green, and some species have yellow spots on the sides. One very rare species of mackerel resembles an eel and lives in tropical seas.
Mackerels swim swiftly in very large schools in search of smaller fish, such as sardines, anchovy, herring and shrimps and squid. The schools swim close to the water's surface but dive swiftly and deeply when sensing danger such as sharks or dolphins or fishing boats.
Schools of fish approach the shore during the spring spawning season, when female mackerels can lay thousands of eggs. The egg sacs float on the water and the tiny fish that hatch reach maturity, becoming an independent school, after three years.
The Atlantic Mackerel is considered the finest, although all the different types of mackerel have muscular and firm flesh. Mackerels are very fatty, even compared to other fish from the same family, making them especially suitable for preserving.
Canned or smoked mackerel is available in all supermarket chains. Ma'adanei Palmazon's delicate and tasty naturally smoked mackerel sells for NIS 67 a kilo. When ground, it is very good as a mousse, with the addition of whipped sweet cream or an excellent cream cheese. In Lakerda, canned mackerel preserved in oil and salt from Chef Hayam (NIS 17 a can), the mackerel serves as a good substitute for bonito, which overfishing has made rare.
Small mackerels preserved in seasoned oil by Porthos from Portugal (NIS 5.25 for 125 grams) are an especially delicious alternative to canned sardines, which are generally of a much lower quality. Salted dried mackerel is also quite good, but is not generally available in Israel.
Fresh mackerel can be found in fish stores specializing in sea fish, although not all year long. Try to find it. Fresh mackerel is especially tasty and eminently suitable for grilling, although its delectable flesh is excellent for frying and cooking. Fresh mackerel can be cooked with root vegetables and cream sauces, but goes particularly well with tart sauces built on a tomato or lemon base, which refine its fatty flesh, as in the following recipe.
Grilled mackerel with fresh tomatoes
3 fresh, peeled tomatoes
1 minced garlic clove
Juice of a medium-sized lemon
Salt to taste
Small bunch of coriander
Fillets of 2 medium-sized mackerels
Prepare the sauce: Remove seeds from tomatoes and coarsely process in food processor. Place in bowl and add garlic, lemon, salt and coriander (reserve some for garnishing). Mix and add a little olive oil. Keep at room temperature.
Brush fish fillets with olive oil and grill on coals or on an electric grill until fish is ready.
Pour sauce onto serving plate and place fish on sauce. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve.