North Sea Mackerel With Pickles, Watermelon, and Wasabi Mayo

Mackarel with pickles watermelon wasabi mayo recipe

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 20 mins
Serving: 1 serving

Fresh mackerel is not just a cheap fish to buy, it also one of the healthiest. It was in the danger zone for sustainability for a while but happily is no longer. 

Pan-frying a mackerel is a popular way to eat this lovely fish, but in the hands of a professional chef it becomes full-on stylish, and of course, is still delicious to eat. The chef in question here is Rob Green. Rob was Seafood Chef of the Year and works in close collaboration with Seafish as an Ambassador for their fish week in October. Who better than to take a mackerel and turn it into a picture on a plate. 

This recipe may sound and look complicated but is in, in fact, straightforward and makes a stunning summer lunch or fish course at dinner. 


  • For the Pickles:
  • 100 ml white wine vinegar (about 1/2 cup)
  • 100 ml water (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 pinches turmeric
  • 1 bay leaf
  • For the Fish:
  • 3 radishes (sliced thinly)
  • 6 silverskin pickled onions (halved)
  • 1 cauliflower floret (very thinly sliced)
  • 1 small carrot (peeled into ribbons)
  • 1 tiny dollop of Wasabi
  • 1 tablespoon good-quality mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 fresh mackerel (filleted, pin boned and cleaned, each fillet cut into 3)
  • 6 (1-centimeter) watermelon cubes
  • Garnish: wild garlic flowers (or baby shoots or herbs)
  • Sea salt (to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this mackerel dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Make the Pickles

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for pickles
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Place all ingredients for the brine into a small saucepan and bring to boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.

    Brine in saucepan
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Add the radishes, onions, and cauliflower to the brine and simmer for 2 minutes.

    Add radishes and onions
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Add the carrot ribbons and remove from heat. Set aside.

    Add carrots
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Make the Fish

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for fish
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Mix the wasabi and mayonnaise together in a small bowl. 

    Mix mayo and wasabi
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Heat a tiny amount of oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the mackerel until just cooked - this should take about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the mackerel once during cooking. 

    Heat oil
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Strain the vegetables from the brine and place them in three piles on a serving plate. Top with a mackerel fillet on each and garnish with the watermelon, Wasabi mayonnaise, and baby herbs. 

    Strain vegetables
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Serve immediately. This recipe makes a great lunch or supper dish. 

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck


  • This recipe works for mackerel. The oiliness of the fish is beautifully balanced with the sharp, pickling of the vegetables which softens down the whole dish. Both the pickle and the fish are so good for you, really there is no point in playing around with this recipe. If you feel you must, then consider another oily fish (fresh tuna would be good) to ring the changes. 

Thanks to Rob Green for the recipe.