Pickled mackerel with red cabbage, apple and cider

serves 4 as a main

When mackerel is around, I can’t get enough of it and I always try to find new ways of serving it. Once autumn arrives mackerel is plentiful, as are cabbages and apples, so it makes sense to bring them together. Here, crunchy red cabbage and crisp apple complement soft, rich mackerel and the cider tones from the salad cream and pickle marry them together perfectly.


4 very fresh mackerel, filleted and pin-boned
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
½ red cabbage, outer leaves removed, thinly sliced
2 Braeburn apples, peeled and grated
Sea salt

For the pickling liquor

200ml cider vinegar
200ml cider
50g caster sugar
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
2 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves

For the salad cream

2 egg yolks
1 tsp English mustard
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp cider
350ml olive oil
50ml double cream
2 tbsp dill leaves, chopped, plus extra sprigs to garnish


For the pickling liquor, put all the ingredients into a pan and heat to dissolve the sugar, then bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Add a pinch of salt.

Lay the mackerel fillets side by side in a dish that holds them snugly in one layer. Pour on the pickling liquor and cover with cling film, pushing it down onto the surface to keep everything submerged. Leave to stand for 2 hours: the fish will effectively ‘cook’ in the liquor. (It can be kept in the liquor for up to 2 days.)

Meanwhile, heat a small frying pan and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the red onion and sweat for 2–3 minutes. Season with salt and transfer the onion to a tray to cool.

To make the salad cream, put the egg yolks, mustard, sugar, cider vinegar and cider into a bowl and whisk together for 1 minute. Now gradually add the olive oil, drop by drop to begin with, then in a thin, steady stream until it is all incorporated. To finish, slowly whisk in the cream and season with salt to taste. Transfer to a bowl and stir through the chopped dill. Cover and refrigerate until required.

To serve, combine the onion, red cabbage and apples in a bowl. Mix well and season with salt to taste. Remove the mackerel fillets from the pickle. Spoon some salad cream onto each of 4 plates and pile the red cabbage mixture into the centre. Arrange the mackerel fillets on top. Add a sprinkle of sea salt and finish with a few dill sprigs.


Nathan Outlaw’s Everyday Seafood by Nathan Outlaw (Quadrille, £20) Photography © David Loftus


“For me, great seafood dishes are defined by their simplicity and respect for the seafood.”