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Virgin Mackerel Escabeche

It’s not only the name of this classic Spanish dish that is a mouthful, the dish itself packs a flavour punch. I love serving this as part of a selection of Tapas style dishes at lunch time. Traditionally the recipe includes white wine, substituting with Goan Coconut Vinegar and water brings an acidic balance to the rich and oily protein packed Mackerel. This dish has to rest at least 12 hours before eating – making it a perfect dish to prepare in advance.

Prep Time15 Minutes
Cook Time10-12 Minutes (Marinating Time: 12 hours).
Servings6 as a Starter or 4 as a Lunch – dependent on the size of the Mackerel 1
  • Mackerel Fish x 6  (12 fillets) – Ask your fishmonger to split them open and remove any bones, keeping the skin on.
  • Cornflour – just enough to lightly dust the fish
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 75ml
  • Onions x 2each – sliced into slices
  • Garlic Cloves x 5 each – crushed
  • Carrot x 1 each – cut into thin ‘coins’
  • Red Capsicum x 2 each cut into long strips
  • Coriander Seeds – ½ teaspoon – lightly crushed
  • Black Pepper – ½ teaspoon – crushed
  • Fennel Seeds – ½ teaspoon – lightly crushed
  • Bay leaf – 1 each
  • Thyme – 2 Sprigs
  • Goan Coconut Vinegar – 100ml
  • Spring/Mineral Water – 150ml
  • Himalayan Pink Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Special Tools/Utensils:

  • Frying Pan
  1. Wash and pat dry the Mackerel fillet.  Season with salt and pepper and dust in the corn flour.
  2. Heat a frying pan or skillet gently cook the fish (in batches) in the olive oi, skin side down for about 2 minutes, without turning. Remove the fish and place in tray.
  3. Once fish is cooked, reduce the heat and add the onions and cook until soft.  Add the carrot, garlic, capsicum and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Once soft, add the spices, thyme and bay leaf and allow to cook for a further 2 minutes.
  5. Add the water and vinegar and bring everything to a boil for about a minute, then gently pour over the fish in the tray.
  6. Allow to cool, cover and marinade in the fridge overnight before serving.*Spicy Variation: When dusting the fish with the corn flour – add a little chili powder as well as chopped chilli when adding the capsicum.

Chef Profile

Stefan Marais

Stefan hails from Cape Town, South Africa and has been involved with food his whole life. He grew up in a small boutique hotel being run by his parents before heading to the UK where he started his training as a chef in Devon and London. Stefan, known as ‘Stef’ to friends and regulars alike returned to Cape Town and honed his skills at various establishments, ranging from simple bistros to fine dining restaurants. He eventually settled as the group executive chef for the ‘Societi’ group of restaurants and chef patron at ‘the Brasserie’. Seeking to broaden his horizons and share his passions, he started his own hospitality consultancy. Stef extended his service to India and headed to Goa, where he ran ‘Go with the Flow’ for three seasons while continuing with consulting work in the Middle East and Africa. Stefan relocated to Qatar in 2019, where he oversees the food operations at an organic farm while still offering broad based hospitality consulting services.. Stef has been honoured by the WWF for his contribution to promoting sustainable fishing practices and his time in Goa saw him walk away with two separate ‘Chef of the year’ accolades. Amongst others, Stef has had recipes and features in GQ, Cosmopolitan, and House & Leisure magazines while also appearing regularly on South African Television shows. He has a light touch and focuses on colourful, healthy dishes that are bold in flavor.