Guest blog by Sam Hadadi,
With its silvery, glistening skin and intense, salty flavours, mackerel is one of our favourite fish to dish up. The mackerel season upon us we’re ready to add this delicious fish to all sorts of dishes, from kedgerees to potato salads and smoky fishcakes.
If you’re still not convinced by mackerel, then hopefully this will persuade you to give it a try. You see, mackerel is every bit as nutritious as it is delicious and is one of the healthiest fish around.
Mackerel has always been one of the most popular fish in the sea and was even dished up by the Romans to make garum, a fermented fish sauce which was similar to those used in Thai and Vietnamese cooking today.
Yet while its famed for its strong, meaty taste, the oily mackerel is also loaded with goodness. Add a dose to your morning eggs and you can enjoy plenty of wonderful selenium, which is full of antioxidant properties and can prevent cell damage, and vitamin B12, which is crucial for cell metabolism and can prevent anaemia.
However, it’s mackerel’s oily-rich deliciousness that always has us going back for more. In fact, alongside salmon and sardines, it’s one of the best oily fish to add to your diet, making it one of our favourite sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
While omega-3s can be found in many seeds as alpha linolenic acid (ALA), it’s actually fish which are one of our greatest sources of fatty acids. The type of omega-3s found in fish (EPA and DHA, if you’re interested!) are unique since they can easily be used by our body.
So, while you’ve probably heard that you need to eat up those omega-3s to stay in tip-top health, why are they so good for us?
For starters, omega-3s help to support the body’s cells for healthy growth and development. They’re also crucial for good muscle function and can help our blood to clot properly.
There’s also heaps of evidence to suggest that these lovely omega-3s can keep our heart happy, too. Not only have studies shown that they can lower blood pressure but they can also slash the risk of heart disease and strokes by helping with blood lipid levels.
Mums-to-be are also encouraged to eat plenty of oily fish in pregnancy as they’re important in healthy brain function (in adults, omega-3s can help to boost our concentration and memory skills, as well as prevent Alzheimer’s). Not only that but they also help with the development of healthy eyes.
Who knew those tasty omega-3s could do so much? As we like to put it, omega-3s are the superheroes of the food world!
Omega-3s are found in all sorts of wholesome, natural foods, including oily fish, fish oils and nuts and seeds. To get enough in our diets, it’s recommended that we eat at least two portions of fish a week, with at least one of those a delicious oily fish, such as salmon or mackerel.
We’re huge fans of eating seasonal foods and the best time to buy mackerel is now! This salty, torpedo-shaped fish starts washing up on our shores in April and May, before leaving in September and October. Although you can buy imported mackerel year-round, fresh is always best.
When it comes to picking your mackerel, look for fish with a bright eye and shiny, beautiful skin. This indicates freshness, which is important with mackerel because it can deteriorate within a day (this is why smoked mackerel is so popular). The best mackerels should also be firm to touch and fresh ones will droop if held by the head.
Mackerel is readily available to buy across the country, especially when in-season. Whether you’re shopping in the supermarket or at a fishmonger’s, it’s easy to add mackerel to your basket and stock up on this nutritious, delicious fish.
Wherever we can, we like to buy our fish from a fishmonger’s as it’s often fresher, higher quality – and supports small and local businesses! You can also find out how the mackerel has been caught and if it’s been sustainably fished.
Happily, mackerel is one of the most budget-friendly fish, and costs just a couple of pounds to purchase from a fishmonger’s and then bake yourself – as with everything, we always like to make our own! You can also pick up a couple of fillets for the same price from the supermarket, or around £3 for a packet of smoked mackerel.
With its firm flesh and meaty, flavoursome taste, mackerel works in all sorts of dishes. We like to bake ours in the oven for 20 minutes at 180C, cool then fillet or alternatively, grill whole mackerel on the BBQ with just a sprinkling of our Himalayan salt and a squeeze of lime, or pan-fry with a simple dressing.
Since mackerel is so rich and full of flavour, it’s best to keep things simple – think fragrant ginger, chilli and lime dressings, or beetroot salads.
If you’re put off by the smell of mackerel, then good news – wrapping the fillets in baking paper or foil and then baking them will stop that fishy smell from spreading throughout the house (it also helps to buy the freshest fish possible). You can also stash ready-baked mackerel in the fridge for up to a week – perfect for flaking over meals for an added nutrient boost!
We also love smoked and peppered mackerel, which tastes delicious flaked over summer salads, or served alongside our morning eggs. One of our favourites is throwing mackerel into our delicious Brown Rice Kedgeree, which is packed with curried flavours and can be found in our book, Coconut Oil: Nature’s Perfect Ingredient.
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Sam Hadadi is an ex-BBC journalist and now a freelance writer specialising in fitness and food.