You will probably be seeing more fish posts here soon, for a very good reason. One of my boys has been diagnosed with learning difficulties and we've been strongly advised to include much more fish oils in his diet, as they're believed to significantly help children with learning challenges, both from supplementary as well as dietary sources. The  next step would be Ritalin therapy, and for us, that would be an absolute last resort. Absolute.

We do everything together; when my mum was advised to change her diet because of her hypertension and sky rocketing cholesterol levels, we cut back on sodium, eggs, animal and hydrogenated fats. Now, we've decided we will all eat more fish, especially oily fish, so my boy knows we're with him and behind him, in this.

The challenge is that he doesn't like fish, never really has, apart from fish and chips, the kind you find in most eateries - oil saturated, salty, encased in a crackling, armour plate like coating of batter, and utterly delicious, until you get to the fifth mouthful. Then, surfeit sets in, the inside of your mouth feels like an oil slick and you just can't go on.

I wanted to make a healthier version that was no less tempting, but with some kind of oily fish, instead of the usual white. Scouring my favourite market, I  saw some beautiful midsized mackerel, rigidly fresh, glistening silver and deepest blue. Somehow, I had to make it irresistable to a 12 year old who hates fish, but avoid deep frying as that would destroy most of the beneficial oils.

In the end, I didn't stray too far from the fish and chips model as I wanted to make the mackerel as appealing to him as possible. Instead of batter, I decided on a mustard and fresh breadcrumb coating, quickly crisped in the oven instead of a deep fryer, and simply cooked potatoes drizzled with delicious and beneficial olive oil. A lightning quick relish of onions and lemon pulp replaced the tartare sauce; it complemented the rich flavour of mackerel beautifully and was something that mum could also tuck into with gusto and without reservation.

The greatest reward for my efforts? My boy wolfed down his dinner and asked for seconds, as did hubby,  usually the other nay sayer when it comes to fish. I ended up having a cheese sandwich for dinner. Should've bought more mackerel...

Prep 20 mins     Cook 15 mins      Serves 4-6


4 fresh mackerel, filleted and skinned (ask your fishmonger to do this for you)
2 generous tsp prepared hot English mustard (I use my favourite - Colman's)
4 Tbsp light vegetable oil (divided)
1/2 tsp fine salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup fresh soft bread crumbs (store bought or home made)
4 large potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks and boiled, steamed or microwaved until tender
2 large red onions, peeled and sliced as you wish (I like rings)
2 large seedless lemons, peel and cut out flesh, between the membranes of each segment, reserving any juice
Desired amount extra virgin oil
Fresh parsley (flat or curly - I used flat) to garnish
A little coarsely ground black pepper to garnish


Preheat oven at 210 C (400 F) then rinse and pat dry the eight skinless mackerel fillets.

Combine mustard and 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a deep plate and set aside. Thoroughly combine salt, pepper, garlic powder and breadcrumbs in another plate. Coat both sides of each fillet first in the oil and mustard mix then in the breadcrumbs, lightly pressing on the crumb coating.

Put prepared fillets on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden and crusty.

While fillets bake, prepare potatoes. I cooked them whole, in a covered bowl, with about 3 tablespoons of water for 6 minutes on High. Times will vary with different ovens. You have to test with a fork to determine if they're done. When done, remove and cool before cutting into chunks, and set aside.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a pan and cook the sliced onions over high heat until fragrant and limp but not browned. Turn off heat and add lemon flesh and juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir well. Onions will turn a deep pink on contact with the lemon - so pretty!

Remove fish from oven. On each plate, place one or two fillets with some potato chunks. Drizzle potatoes with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Mound some of the onion chutney on each fillet. Garnish with parsley and sprinkle coarsely ground black pepper over fish and potatoes. Serve.


Note on Fresh Bread Crumbs : to make fresh breadcrumbs. Turn on your blender or food processor and drop in through the opening or feeding tube, 3 slices of bread,torn into little pieces, a few pieces at a time. Putting it all in at once may clog your blade and cause the crumbs to clump together. By the time the last piece of bread goes in, your crumbs should be ready. Turn off machine, remove crumbs and use as required.