Mackerel Escabèche

Mackerel Escabèche – Fillets of fresh mackerel poached in a vinaigrette flavoured with balsamic, saffron, and spices.

mackerel escabeche

I need help for my mackerel addiction. My infatuation with this fish has been going on for a while now and I can’t see it ending anytime soon. It’s just so tasty and cheap that if I see some freshly caught fillets sitting on a fish counter they somehow magically end up in my shopping basket.

I realise that not everybody shares my craving for this cheap and sustainable seafood. I’ve tried putting in on menus in various restaurants where I worked over the years and it’s never been a great seller.

People just don’t know what they’re missing. Mackerel is packed with omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, as well as b vitamins to boost your immune system, and is a known antioxidant. In this recipe I’ve kept things nutritious by using all those heart healthy classic mediterranean ingredients. Extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar are infused with garlic, spices, and the wonderfully pungent saffron before the fish is fried till crisp then poached in the fragrant liquor.

Saffron is definitely the most expensive ingredient in my cupboard. Made from the crocus flower there is only 3 strands per flower, apparently it takes 160,000 flowers to make 1kg. It’s a great ingredient for fish cooks to have on hand though. Just a few threads of this aromatic red spice can really enliven soups, risotto, and dressings. The recipe calls for a good pinch so be as generous as the size of your fingers allow.

Mackerel Escabeche

Although I had some saffron in my larder at home, I went shopping for all the other spices. Only to discover some coriander seed lurking in the back of a cupboard beside some neglected turmeric and 5 spice I bought when I was making a tagine last year. So before you go shopping check you don’t have some of the ingredients hiding somewhere.

Normally in spain they eat this dish cold. The fish is allowed to cool down to room temperature in the vinaigrette absorbing all the flavours of saffron and licorice from the star anise…, and it tastes delicious, but I can never wait that long for it to cool down….will you?

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best pan for fish

Mackerel Escabèche

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 1x



  • 4 x 300g (10.5oz) mackerel fillets, with the skin on
  • 100g (3.5oz) shallots (finely sliced)
  • 60g (2.1oz) baby carrots (peeled and sliced)
  • 3 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 good pinch of saffron strands
  • 100 ml (.21 pint) white wine
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 200 ml (.42 pint) olive oil
  • chopped parsley


  1. First, thinly slice the banana shallots, then separate all the rings, discarding any broken pieces. Peel and slice the carrots thinly – 2mm thick.
  2. Place a saucepan on a medium heat and add one tablespoon of the olive oil. Then add the garlic, shallots, and carrots together with the, saffron, and spices. Cook for 2–3 minutes with no colour.
  3. Add the white wine, white wine vinegar, and balsamic to a pan, bring to a simmer and cook for 4 minutes before whisking in the olive oil.
  4. Remove any pin bones from the mackerel and and season them with salt and pepper. Heat some olive oil in a pan and sear the mackerel till the skin is crispy and golden. Add the mackerel to the liquor and poach for 2-3 mins. Add the freshly chopped parsley and serve.


Alternative fish – Snapper, Sardines, mullet

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