There’s a ship lies rigged and ready in the harbour…


Mack Roll, radish pickle, apple and fennel slaw.

I love Mackerel, I mean to say, I think it’s a very beautiful fish with it’s inky blue and sliver markings, I adore the flavour and it is for me reminiscent of something that I was never involved in at all…

Our little family loaded up our Volkswagon Beetle (the first one was red and was named Ruby, the second was the palest blue and named ‘Blue’, we also had a white cat called Snowy and subsequently a black cat called Sooty – you get the picture). In the heat wave summers of img_8468the ‘70’s, the beaten up suitcases were fastened tightly to the roof rack and at 4am on a late July morning we set off , Karl-Heinz and I tucked in to our ’emergency blanket’ the mammoth journey from London to Devon took an entire day.

This was our annual holiday,  and as well as being the source of mystifying volumes of preparation and not a few corking rows between our parents, it was really great fun. img_8142We would, habitually pass Stonehenge on the way, we’d stop off to walk around and touch the ancient stones, in those days when such a thing was possible…we enjoyed bacon rolls at a roadside café (the best I’ve ever tasted because we were on an adventure) and when we hit the county of Devon my dad would always point out the red soil to us, it was the stuff of ritual and we loved it.img_8371

In this contemporary image taken by our niece Stitch, you can see the fence that now keeps the public at bay…

A ‘70’s family holiday it was and something I remember quite distinctly was the ‘sea fishing trip’….I think I remember it out of some kind of resentment because this was a ‘male’ activity and I don’t know whether this was our family rule or whether it was stated by the organisers as a father and son event, however I know that I was never once included in it. I do exaggerate my chagrin…there were daisy chains to be threaded and friends to be made back at our ‘chalet’ so I was fully entertained.

Off went dad and my brother, Karl-Heinz, I cannot tell you whether they went once or thrice or even more, I had long forgotten until I stood before a pair of mackerel this weimg_8413ek. The trips were well advertised every year …I’m starting to imagine something akin to the ‘Gavin and Stacey’ fishing trip in terms of mystery and intrigue but of course this was not the case it was simply a trip in which holiday makers went off and caught copious volumes of Mackerel. I don’t remember any other fish, just buckets of glossy ‘stiff fresh’ mackerel, and I don’t remember eating any of it…I don’t know where it went…Maybe it was the mystery ingredient in all the mock turtle soup, strange times those ’70’s.

In my mind’s eye, I see a small boat packed full of bell bottom wearing , mustachioed fathers, with little boys in their flares, skimpy T shits and desert boots, hanging helplessly over the side of a boat crashing about in a foamy sea. I expect it was very smoky and I bet there was beer. Karl-Heinz will no doubt put me straight in this regard, if he ever reads this.  ‘A ship lies rigged and ready in the harbour’ is a line from a song by an old crooner called Roger Whittaker, it’s evocative of my childhood, as we would belt it out with gusto at our family Christmas do and coincidentally it reminds me of my father-in-law, nautical man that he was. Back to the tale…img_8414

I contend that Mackerel is under valued, I hear people with uncommon frequency say they dislike the taste and I find it hard to believe. When fresh, it’s not too fishy and has a lovely meaty texture that can stand a lot of really good seasoning. For that reason, I commend to you our (mine and Rocket’s) Mackerel Burger. Well seasoned, hand chopped fresh meaty fish in a good bun with some tasty relish. It can take a slice of cheese too, should feel inclined.

It’s worth the little effort to make it and packed full of omega 3, it is a delicious thang.img_8418

Here is how:

Makes 2 large burgers


For the burger

2 whole mackerel, filletted and hand chopped.

2 shallots, finely chopped fried until soft and translucent then left to cool.

Several grinds of mixed ground pepper corns.

1/2 tsp sea salt.

For the Radish pickle

4 radishes slicedimg_8375

2 tablespoons cider or white white vinegar

1 tablespoon hot water

1 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

For the Apple and Fennel Slaw

1 fennel bulb, well trimmed and then sliced into match sticks

1 green apple, cored and sliced into match sticksimg_8377

1 heaped tablespoon mayonnaise

A squeeze of lemon

Freshly ground black pepper

A pinch of sea salt.

You will also need some sliced beef tomato, a few leaves such as little gem, and good quality buns of your choosing.


  1. First combine the fish with the onion and form into two patties of equal size.
  2. Cover the patties with cling film and refridgerate for 30 minutes.
  3. In a small dish, add the boiling water to the sugar and salt and stir to disolve.img_8385
  4. Now add the vinegar and the radish, set aside to make a quick pickle.
  5. Mix the fennel and apple with the mayo and seasoning, cover and refridgerate for 20 minutes.
  6. Wipe a little oil around a shallow frying pan and apply a medium heat before carefully adding the mackerel patties.
  7. Allow the patties to sit still in the heat of the pan for about 3 minutes until a golden crust forms and the centre of the side of the burger has started to become opaque.
  8. Gently flip the patties and cook on the other side until they feel firm to the touch and be opaque all the way through. If you are unsure, take a thin bladed knife and slip it into the centre of the burger going about halfway down. Leave the knife there for a few moments and then remove – if the tip of the knife is hot, the burger is ready.
  9. Pop the split bun face down in another hot pan and toast slightly before taking out and building the burger.




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