mackerel with gooseberry sauce

i ate this once, ages ago, when i first came to this country. it must have been around 1993 and i doubt i'd ever seen a gooseberry in my life until that point. we just didn't do gooseberries at home. no idea why. i don't even know what the word for gooseberry is in serbo-croat, or serbian, or bosnian, or whatever it is i'm supposed to speak these days.

the sauce and the fish were cooked by shiela, the then boyfriend's mum. she was a great cook, with hindsight, and she had a large vegetable and fruit garden which is where the gooseberries came from. they grew in the shade of laurel trees, together with some rasberries, covered in green netting to protect them from birds.

i think i have sheila to thank for some of my love of food and the burgeoning desire to have a garden to grow stuff to eat. her son may have been a nutter (no, really) but she probably taught me the basics of not just cooking but eating. she loved food and took us to some very nice restaurants at the time when i couldn't have afforded fish and chips, let alone a three course dinner at some michelin-starred joint. we always used to joke that i should write a 'poor refugee's guide to the best restaurants in the north west england and scotland'.

they had a great big kitchen overlooking the herb garden outside. with an aga, of course. sheila had all the stuff - the magimixes, the scales, the composting bin, the pots, the pans...also, a fridge full of nice hams, fruit and yoghurt and and a freezer in a slug-filled cellar downstairs. the then boyfriend would raid the freezer when stoned, eating icecream with scones and cheddar cheese, which tastes nicer than you think.

last sunday at farmer's market they were selling gooseberries for the first time this summer. as we'd already bought some mackerel, i thought i'd buy a punnet and try to recreate the sauce. oily fish like mackerel and sour berries go very well together but you could also substitute other acidy fruit and veg like rhubarb or tomatoes.

most recipes i found use lots of sugar to temper this acidity and, though i think it is true that you need some (otherwise you'll be sucking in your cheeks all the way through your dinner), you definitely don't need nearly as much as most suggest. it defeats the point, apart from anything else.

apologies about the picture. not sure what happened there.

for 2

2 mackerel, cleaned, gutted and filleted
1/2 cup of rolled oats (you can skip the oats if you're 100% primal but it's only a little bit and they add a nice crunch to the fish)
1 punnet gooseberries, washed and topped and tailed
25g butter
1/2 cup of chicken stock
1 level tsp honey
salt and pepper
olive oil

melt the butter in a saucepan and add the gooseberries. add the honey and the stock, then cover and cook on medium heat for 10 or so minutes. the berries will have turned yellow and gone soft. leave to cool a little, then whizz in a blender or a food processor until smooth. pass through a sieve to get rid of the pips if you can be bothered - i could though i'm not sure why. return to the pan and simmer for a bit longer to thicken and reduce it. that's it.

when ready to eat, lightly oil and season the fish fillets. spread the oats on a plate, then dip each fillet into them and fry in preheated pan for around 3 minutes on each side. don't have the oil in the pan too hot as the oatmeal will burn.


  1. Keep the pudding ingredients away from the savoury ingredients! One course at a time, please ... ;)


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