Mackerel with salted cucumber, horseradish, onion & capers









Mackerel is one of the fishes I have a hard time passing at the fishmonger’s especially when they are filleted, saving me fiddly deboning and offering near-instant gratification. Grilled or pan fried mackerel is piled along with a nose-clearing dollop of fresh horseradish, soothing softened cucumber, zippy red onion rings and a few salty capers on crispy rye crisp bread.

There is nothing more satisfying than the first (and second and third) bite of this kind of smørrebrød and my version is ready in about 10 minutes. For this is one of the quickest and most delightful lunches you can make after you just passed the fishmonger and found this treasured fish, not to mention the smugness appeal for all the health benefit boxes it will tick. Not that that is my primary interest here. We are from the Live to Eat (great food) camp, which minds what we Eat to Live and values taste over fanatic nutrionism.

Also, nothing says summer like a grilled mackerel and even in this bleak Midwinter a pan fried fillet carries the allure of a hot summers day at the beach and instills the promise of warmer times to come into our minds. Gosh, if all this can be achieved by a simple lunch why wait any longer?


Mackerel on rye with the works

Mackerel with cucumber, horseradish, onions & capers

Inspired and adapted from Valentine Warner: What to Eat Now


2 small mackerels, filleted
¼ – ⅓ cucumber
a piece of horseradish
1-2 tablespoons crème fraîche
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
a dash of cream
½ red onion, thinly sliced
salt, pepper
2 rounds of rye crisp bread
Maldon sea salt to serve


Check mackerel fillets for any bones and remove them with two narrow wedge-like incisions along the bone line if you have found any.

Using a mandolin cut the cucumber into very thin slices, place in a colander and lightly sprinkle with salt. Leave to soften and drain off excess liquid for about 10-30 minutes according to your taste. Press out excess water and keep the cucumber slices on the side. I like my cucumbers with a little bit of bite, therefore I leave the skin on and drain only for the shortest amount of time. If you prefer a softer condiment-like consistency, remove the skin, leave them for about ½ hours to drain and remove the liquid with a vigorous press.

Grate a healthy amount of horseradish (remove the skin and do not inhale directly above the freshly grated horseradish), mix with crème fraîche, mustard and cream to taste, season with salt and pepper.

Preheat a cast iron grill pan and grill or the mackerel fillets (brushed with a little olive oil) until done, max. 1 minute on each side. Alternatively pan fry the fish, which I have done here. Prepare your crisp breads with a smear of horseradish (the thickness depends on your horseradish tolerance), divide cucumber slices between the two, place mackerel fillets on top and adorn with onion and capers. Add a final sprinkling of Maldon sea salt flakes.





Deutsches Rezept:


Mackerel with horseradish, cucumber, onions and capers

Makrelenbrot mit Gurke, Meerrettich, Zwiebeln und Kapern

Inspiriert von Valentine Warners What to Eat Now


2 kleine Makrelen, filetiert
¼ – ⅓ Gurke
ein Stück Meerretich
1-2 EL Crème fraîche
½ TL Dijonsenf
ein Schuß Sahne
½ rote Zwiebel, in dünne Ringe geschnitten
Salz, Pfeffer
2 Scheiben Roggen Knäckebrot
Maldon Meersalzflocken


Makrelenfilets auf Gräten überprüfen und diese mit zwei engen keilförmigen Schnitten entlang der Grätenlinie entfernen.

Mit einer Mandoline die Gurke in dünne Scheiben hobeln, in ein Sieb geben und mit Salz bestreuen. 10-30 Minuten abtropfen lassen, anschließend ausdrücken und die Gurken zur Seite stellen. Ich mag meine Gurken lieber mit noch etwas Biß, also lasse ich die Schale dran und salze sie nur kurz. Für eine weichere Konsistenz, die sich einem Kompott nähert, die Gurke schälen und 30 Minuten entwässern und ordentlich ausdrücken.

Meerrettich ohne Schale fein raspeln (dabei nicht direkt über dem geraspelten Rettich einatmen, das befreit die Nase auf brutale Art), mit Crème fraîche, Senf und Sahne nach Geschmack mischen, salzen und pfeffern.

Eine Grillpfanne vorheizen und die Makrelenfilets (mit Olivenöl eingepinselt) für maximal eine Minute auf jeder Seite grillen oder das ganze in einer heißen Pfanne erledigen.

In der Zwischenzeit die Knäckebrotscheiben mit Meerrettich nach Schärfetoleranz bestreichen, die Gurkenscheiben verteilen und die Makrelen darauf balancieren. Mit Zwiebelringen und Kapern belegen und zum Schluß ein paar Meersalzflocken darüber streuen.


21 thoughts on “Mackerel with salted cucumber, horseradish, onion & capers

  1. Now THIS is the kind of lunch I would eat for breakfast and dinner too. Love mackerel, love horseradish, love knäckebröd (crispy rye), add some salty, crispy cucumber and I am in heaven.
    Once tried to BBQ freshly caught mackerel on a boat and nearly set fire to the petrol tank. Have learned my lesson since (read: much older and wiser). Thank you for reminding me of how something so seemingly simple can be so fantastic. And, to end, I am with both Goldacre and Pollan.

    • Hi Jeanette, I thought this would be right up your alley (or galley), too. What I did not know is that tried to bbq the petrol tank on a boat, those must have been wild days indeed! I’d sail with you anytime (and let’s have mackerel sashimi). N xx

      • Petrol does lend it a cerian whiff of hipster 😉
        Sashimi is the best option, with ceviche being second best..All onboard Nicole! (bring the lemons/limes, please) Jxxx

  2. These look like the perfect treat for a sundowner with a glass of chilled white wine! Yum! I love smoked fish of any kind and although I’m yet to try mackerel, I am pretty sure it’d be delicious. Thanks for sharing this lovely recipe!

    • Oh, yes, they will be perfect for a sundowner and the wine could be something from your part of the world. I once had a great white with an intense gooseberry note (Cloudy Bay), anyway something more on the crisp & acidic side. Mackerel is wonderful, rich, oily, meaty, I am sure you’ll love it. N xx

    • Thank you, Karen. Surely the ocean around Florida has many great alternatives to choose from: it should be an oily fish with firm meat to hold its own against the condiments. I am interested which ones you’ll consider – send a note, will you? N

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