I remember when I was much younger (probably still in primary school), my mum used to buy frozen mackerel, cut the fish into about 4-5 pieces, season it, and then fry it. Chai!....that thing was so delicious ehh. It was always either used in fish stew or just eaten by itself. I had some friends then who enjoyed their fried mackerel with some soaked garri....they too could literally swear by it. I think till today, fried mackerel still remains a stable Nigerian delicacy.
However, for this recipe, we are going to take our mackerel up a notch or two ;-). Instead of being cut into 4-5 pieces (sorry mum), the mackerel is going to be filleted.
Fillet from the french word 'filet', meaning a thread or strip, is the process of slicing away the flesh of the fish from the bones...gruesome huh. But it certainly does taste great.
First we are going to tackle the fish, then in the next post, we'll make the coconut rice.
For this you'll need:
- 1 Mackerel
For the spice rub
- 1tsp of salt
- 1tsp of smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp of garlic powder (or 1 clove of crushed garlic)
- 1tsp of black pepper
- A thin sharp knife
- A small bowl
- Parchment/baking paper
- A baking tray
- First, place your fish on a stable cutting board
- Cut a straight line from the neck into the belly of the fish, to the mid-section and remove the guts (just as much as you can).
- From the spine of the fish, cut a c-shape towards the back of the pectoral fin (beside the gill cover) all the way down to the neck. Do this on the reverse side too, and the head should come off easily.
- Once the head is off, turn the fish around till the spine is facing you. Place the knife at the middle (where the head was removed), just before the bone, and place your second hand on the fish pressing down gently(to steady it). In one motion, slice through, till you get to the tail end.
- Do this on the opposite side, and you should be left with the vertebral column (with the tail attached) of the fish.
- Clean the sides of the fillet you weren't able to get to before (just cut it out), and if you had any bones stuck in the middle, make a v-shape in the middle of the fish with your knife (making sure your knife doesn't go through the skin) and cut it off.
- Carefully run your fingers through the fillets to ensure theres no more bone. Then run some water through the fillets, to clean them. Pat dry with a paper towel.
- In a small bowl, combine the spices (salt+ pepper+garlic+paprika) together.
- Rub the spice mix all over the fleshy part of the fish. Then leave to marinate for about 20 minutes
- Its actually at this point that you start making the coconut rice, but lets leave that for the next post and return to our fish. The fish should however be put into the oven once you're about to serve the rice (so its still hot and juicy).
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Place the fish on the baking sheet lined with parchment/baking paper (skin side up). Sprinkle some salt on the skin, and then put it in the oven to roast for about 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and place on your rice (skin side up), and then... enjoy.
- Try to ensure that your knife is very sharp, or else you won't be able to fillet the fish in single slice motion.
- Try not to move the knife blade too much when filleting the fish, or it would make rough cuts and take off less flesh (leaving a lot more flesh on the vertebral column).