Baked Mackerel with Fennel and Lemon

 Baked Mackerel Recipe

This week is truly a week of firsts; so far you’ve witnessed my first fair weather soup and now you are being treated to my first mackerel recipe of the summer. Mackerel is probably the commonest fish found in British seas – they are so simple to catch once midsummer rolls in. I’ll admit that it isn’t yet mackerel season and that I didn’t catch this particular specimen myself, but mackerel is reasonably plentiful all year round if one has a boat. Indeed, this fish, which is more than enough for one hungry customer, cost exactly £1 and was of a rather fetching quality. In actual fact, as you might imagine, it played the main role in this lunch which turned out to be, unequivocally, the best fish dish I’ve ever eaten. You may call me big-headed, but I’m simply stating the facts. That reminds me, never buy “fresh” fish from Spanish supermarkets.

Fennel leaf, a herb similar to, but a little stronger in flavour than dill, is the perfect accompaniment for a fish like baked mackerel. You see, it is a fish rich in oils and relatively strong in flavour, so the pleasantly pungent aroma of the fennel is well-matched. You’ll be glad to know that the fennel was hand-picked during a walk my mother, grandfather, sister and I took on Father’s Day. The wild plant was so fresh and green that it was practically begging to be picked – so I took plenty of it and none has gone to waste.

I always say that fish ought to be cooked simply, since it is a meat that needs to be showcased. Never, when preparing a fish supper, should one disguise the delicate taste of the main event with a superfluity of flavours and spices – it simply isn’t necessary. As such, it seemed rather apt, given this mantra, to bake the fish in a light and subtle sauce. Indeed, the richness afforded by the wine, coupled with the wonderful aroma of cooked lemon and garlic worked wonders with the fennel, creating a thin gravy worthy of anyone’s bread. If you’ve never before experienced mackerel, this is the dish with which to begin; it is both simple and effective.

Baked Mackerel with Fennel and Lemon {recipe}

Serves 1-2


• 1 medium sized mackerel, gutted

• A generous handful of fresh fennel leaves

• The juice and flesh of half a lemon

• A generous glug of white wine

• 1 clove of garlic

• Sea salt

• Pepper

• Olive oil


1. Arrange the fennel in a frying pan and place the mackerel on top. Splash over a little white wine and the lemon juice, before stuffing the fish with the lemon flesh. Season and slather with a little olive oil. Wrap the pan with foil and bake for 15 minutes at 180C.

Baked Mackerel Recipe

Baked Mackerel Recipe

2. Remove the foil and grill for another 10 minutes until browned, be careful not to burn or overcook the fish. Pull each fillet away from the spine of the fish and serve with a little sourdough bread. Don’t forget to mop up those juices.

Baked Mackerel Recipe

Baked Mackerel Recipe

Cost: As already mentioned, the mackerel was extremely cheap, a trait exacerbated by the fact that this dish, with bread, would easily provide lunch for two. Not only that, but fennel leaf is easily found and one often has a little left-over white wine sauntering around one’s house. All in all, this dish should set one back around £1.50. However, it is made even more financially appealing by the frugal characteristics described above.

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71 comments on “Baked Mackerel with Fennel and Lemon

  1. spree
    June 19, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    I hear the health benefits of mackerel touted all the time, Nick, but we don’t get it her (as far as I know) unless it’s in a can. You’ve sure made me want to try it! The seasoning’s – fennel frond, lemon, garlic, salt, num! num!

    • frugalfeeding
      June 19, 2012 at 9:49 pm

      Yes! It’s SO good for you. That’s such a shame. Get some! 😀

  2. Somer
    June 19, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Holy Mackerel! Did you make that bread? I want that recipe & method!!!

    • frugalfeeding
      June 19, 2012 at 9:47 pm

      Unfortunately not! I bought it :(. I’ll do a recipe and post it 😀

      • Somer
        June 19, 2012 at 9:54 pm

        Yes! I can’t figure out how the swirly bits are done…

        Oh and my post earlier today, Cafe Rio stepped up to the plate and solved the issue. Sometimes a little negative blogging review is a good thing!

        • frugalfeeding
          June 19, 2012 at 9:58 pm

          I shall! I’m glad it got rectified – that was so careless of them.

          • Somer
            June 20, 2012 at 7:25 am

            For reals.

  3. annesturetucker
    June 19, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Such a feast – yum!! Simple, honest and good!! I love fennel with fish!!
    Beautiful photos too!! Thanks for sharing!

    • frugalfeeding
      June 19, 2012 at 9:46 pm

      Thanks, Anne! It’s such a wonderful combination.

  4. seohunter
    June 19, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Reblogged this on Anything Interesting on WordPress.

  5. cookinginsens
    June 19, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Fennel leaf? That’s different, but understandably good!

    • frugalfeeding
      June 19, 2012 at 9:45 pm

      Not particularly, it;s well known to go well with fish. Thanks, Rosemary.

  6. thesinglegourmetandtraveller
    June 19, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    Fabulous recipe.

  7. theacupunc
    June 19, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    omgoshes that looks so delicious i almost drooled on my keyboard.

    • frugalfeeding
      June 19, 2012 at 9:44 pm

      Thanks! Don’t do that too much, you may break it.

  8. Juls
    June 19, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Mackerel is easily one of my favourite fish. I love it. It stops me being hungry and keeps the joints limber (I’m looking ahead here). I love anything fennel as well so this recipe looks like all kinds of win.

    • frugalfeeding
      June 19, 2012 at 9:44 pm

      Isn’t it just so delicious, Juls?! I think I may do another recipe for it soon.

      • Juls
        June 19, 2012 at 10:05 pm

        Do! Do lots and lots! I’ve been doing this ‘new years resolution’ of sorts that involved having at least one fish meal a week but I’m not allowed to use the five ‘big fish’ in the UK (cod, haddock, prawns, salmon and tuna) and mackerel is the fish usually closest to hand from reliable sources but I’m running out of recipes!

        • frugalfeeding
          June 19, 2012 at 10:09 pm

          Ok, I shall! I shall do something with hake and something with trout too.

  9. Willow
    June 19, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Gorgeous dish! I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever tried mackerel… but it sounds incredible, and the fennel, lemon, and garlic is always a winning combination! I’ll have to keep my eye out for fresh mackerel at the fish market.

    • frugalfeeding
      June 19, 2012 at 9:43 pm

      Thanks, Willow! You must try it, it’s an incredible and under-appreciated fish.

  10. Bob Vivant
    June 19, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    We love mackerel here. Unfortunately, it’s easier to find it smoked than fresh. But smoked mackerel is delicious too. Hope to get my hands on a fresh one soon and give this a go. I love fennel in just about anything. Cheers!

    • frugalfeeding
      June 19, 2012 at 9:42 pm

      Here, they are equally easily found, but that’s regional difference for you. I hope you manage to find one, Bobbi!

  11. Ragamuffin Diaries
    June 19, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    this fish looks incredible! I absolutely love that first picture. I’ve never had fennel, but would really like to try it . I definitely agree that fish should be seasoned delicately. It has such great flavor on its own!!!!!

    • frugalfeeding
      June 19, 2012 at 9:42 pm

      Thanks! I thought so too :D. It really does, especially an oily fish like mackerel.

  12. bitsandbreadcrumbs
    June 19, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Fennel, lemon and fish do go together so nicely! And fennel fronds are so wonderful and so often discarded instead of used…why is that? They are wonderful on potatoes, too.

    • frugalfeeding
      June 19, 2012 at 9:42 pm

      They do indeed! I know, it’s such a shame! Ahha – Perhaps I shall give that a go!

  13. Keep Calm and Eat On
    June 19, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Fennel tops will never be thrown out again. Thank you!
    Beautiful pictures and a good treat.

    • frugalfeeding
      June 19, 2012 at 10:53 pm

      Good! Never should anything be thrown out 😀

  14. Trish
    June 19, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    I had fresh caught mackeral once in Mexico, and it had such a strong after taste that it really put me off, but I always assumed it was the way they prepared it (I don’t remember how). would love to try this recipe.

    • frugalfeeding
      June 19, 2012 at 10:55 pm

      It must have been, it doesn’t have that strong an after taste. Give it another go!

  15. cheruko
    June 20, 2012 at 12:42 am

    Always enjoy your recipies 🙂 I live in Japan in a seaside town, and mackerel are very available, but I’ve never had the nerve to prepare one myself. I’d love to try this recipe, but I’m afraid I’ll have trouble finding fennel here. Let the grand search begin. In case I fail, though, is there any other herb that you think might compliment this fish?

    • frugalfeeding
      June 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      Awesome! You simply must get yourself one! You could use dill, thyme or rosemary. They would all flavour the fish brilliantly.

  16. Savory Simple
    June 20, 2012 at 2:00 am

    What a great way to enjoy the fish!

  17. Michelle
    June 20, 2012 at 2:02 am

    Great photos, Frugal! Those fennel fronds are gorgeous.

  18. Just A Smidgen
    June 20, 2012 at 2:49 am

    I love a simple main skillet dish, where the fish gets to be the star! I agree.. extra sauces (while I wouldn’t turn away from a good sauce) often mask the freshest of ingredients. I love the addition of fennel and the white wine.. well, I’d add a glug to my glass as well! Cheers! Smidge

    • frugalfeeding
      June 23, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      So much fun to cook with a skillet. Haha – I did 😀

  19. Eha
    June 20, 2012 at 4:25 am

    A case of ‘less is more’ working to perfection, isn’t it?! And mackerel isn’t the only fish which would well benefit from this ‘treatment’ 🙂 !

  20. Stephanie
    June 20, 2012 at 5:12 am

    This looks scrumptious! I love mackerel, but I’ve only eaten it as sashimi.

  21. glutenfreehappytummy
    June 20, 2012 at 5:29 am

    what a stunning presentation! yum!!

  22. Eat Healthy Be Happy
    June 20, 2012 at 5:31 am

    I’m not a fan of fennel, I don’t like the anise flavor. What would you recommend as a substitute? (Not a fan of dill, either. ;])

    • frugalfeeding
      June 23, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      Ummmm, that’s just being difficult. You should use parsley, thyme or rosemary.

  23. lizzierosejewellery
    June 20, 2012 at 8:55 am

    This would be perfect to cook when I’m home in the Algarve this summer, Mackerel is plentiful and cheap there. I’m the same though, don’t like the taste of fennel so would add whatever herb is growing in my garden at the time! Or just black pepper, sea salt and lemon is good. Cath

    • frugalfeeding
      June 23, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      Awesome! Please try it, you’ll love it. Yes, whatever herb – dill would work very well. Thanks, Cath.

  24. Elaina @ Flavour
    June 20, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    Could this BE anymore gorgeous! Love love love… am obsessed with fish and lemon and dill…well, the list goes on. I adore your blog! x

  25. PM
    June 21, 2012 at 1:43 am

    gorgeous! 😀 the photo of the dish prior to baking is such a feast of summer while the last one made me so hungry!

  26. Sibella
    June 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    What a lovely meal!

  27. baconbiscuit212
    June 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    I completely agree: when the fish is very fresh, the least done to it is the best!

    Looks terrific, Nick! Is it me, or does the mackerel look like it’s smiling?

    • frugalfeeding
      June 23, 2012 at 1:45 pm

      I’m glad that you agree, Daisy! It does indeed. It must have been happy to have been cooked so beautifully 😀

  28. filingawaycupcakes
    June 21, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Lol “generous glug.” A glug for me I say:] I think the bread looks just the same too! My bread was prolly a lot more “ethnic” though…it is a different taste than most breads really.

    • frugalfeeding
      June 23, 2012 at 1:40 pm

      People always respond well to a generous glug. Yes, I’m sure it probably was 😀

  29. Karista
    June 22, 2012 at 5:38 am

    I don’t eat much mackeral but this looks so delish I’m definitely going to prepare it! Love the fennel too, I’m always looking for ways to use fennel. I’m totally in blog love. Your pictures are fantastic!

    • frugalfeeding
      June 23, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      Thanks, Karista! I’m still getting to grips with the camera though. Isn’t fennel delightful? Especially once it’s cooked.

      • Karista
        June 23, 2012 at 5:06 pm

        Love fennel! I find all sorts of excuses to use it. I’ll even it it raw in a salad but sauteed and used in a fish dish or fish stew is completely delightful. 🙂

        • frugalfeeding
          July 1, 2012 at 8:28 pm

          It can be really lovely. Though, I don’t like it raw, it’s a little too strong for me.

  30. Anastasia
    June 23, 2012 at 6:32 am

    I love mackerel sushi, but this baked fish looks even better! Yum!!

    • frugalfeeding
      June 23, 2012 at 1:20 pm

      Thanks! I’m a bit iffy on sushi – but this was gorgeous.

  31. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide
    June 23, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    Even the fish looks happy to be served up that way, he’s grinning. I’d be grinning when I ate him.

  32. jdubs
    June 27, 2012 at 4:07 am

    wow.. beautiful

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