Slow cooking fresh fish is unusual. This recipe gives a tender fish with an intense oriental flavour.


Long, slow cooking is an unusual technique for fresh fish and you certainly wouldn’t normally think of simmering mackerel for around 3 hours.


But by keeping the heat very gentle and ensuring the fish are covered with liquid, you prevent the drying out you might expect. The fish remain intact, the flesh is tender – the texture, almost, of tinned sardines – while the bones of smaller mackerel will be soft enough to eat.


If you like intense, aromatic, oriental flavours, this is an outstanding recipe that we urge you to try.


Ingredients – Serves 6–8

2 large, hot, dried red chillies

½ fist-sized piece of fresh ginger, very thinly sliced

3–4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

75ml soy sauce

40ml cider vinegar

20g soft brown sugar

About 400ml apple juice

6–8 small-medium mackerel, gutted, heads and tails removed (or fewer, larger fish, each cut into 2–3 chunky pieces)

Cayenne pepper

Cooked noodles or rice

Steamed spinach, pak choi or other greens


1. Put the chillies, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, cider vinegar, sugar and about half the apple juice into a small pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar, but taking care not to break up the chillies.

2. Arrange the mackerel in a heavy-based saucepan. They should be packed in closely, with few or no gaps between them. Pour over the sauce. If it doesn’t quite cover the fish, add some more apple juice until it does – but only just.

3. Give the pan a little shake to re-blend the sauce and apple juice, if necessary, then place on the heat and bring to a simmer. As soon as you see the simmer beginning, turn the heat down so it doesn’t boil.

4. Cook, covered, at a very gentle, popping simmer for 3 hours. You may need to top up the pan with a little more apple juice from time to time. Don’t let it boil and don’t be tempted to move the fish until the 3 hours are up.

5. Take the fish out of the cooking liquid, set aside and keep warm. Remove and discard the chillies.

6. Return the pan containing the cooking liquid to the hob, turn up the heat and boil until it is reduced by about a third to a half.

7. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You are looking for a good balance of sweet, hot, salty and sour, so add more apple juice or a dash of vinegar or soy sauce, as appropriate. If you feel the sauce lacks heat, you can pep it up with a pinch or two of cayenne pepper.

8. Arrange the fish on a pile of noodles or rice, and/or some steamed spinach or pak choi. Pour over the sauce and serve.


Japanese slow-cooked Mackerel – DONE