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A Jack to catch a Mackerel

There is an excellent fish stall at the Walthamstow Farmers Market, Sea Fayre, fish very fresh, up from Dungeness. Not very cheap, but then fresh fish never is.

So I was astonished to find a fish I had never seen before at an astonishing price of £1 per fish.  Horse Mackerel. Or Jack. Or Scad.  I’d never heard of them, no matter which name you wish to call them by!

Apparently, whilst not fished for specifically, they appear in nets quite often, and with the interest in fish that is not as overfished as cod and haddock say, Sea Fayre bring all their edible fish to market.

I am rather partial to a mackerel, and I insist on them being fresh and stiff as a poker.  I bought a nice fat big mackerel for dinner on Sunday, and then decided on the spur of the moment that I would try a couple of these equine babies as well.

I didn’t do much to the mackerel, just filleted it out and dry panfried it, to crisp the oily skin. It is a rich fish, and I don’t think it needs much doing to it at all.

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( I am a lazy fishmonger though, and hate pinboning. So here’s my tip:  instead of filleting into two side fillets as is usual,  cut down each side of the pinbones to make four narrow fillets. )



The Horse Mackerel, however, I read were a less oily fish. So I decided to prepare them and then let them marinade overnight in some olive oil and grapefruit vinegar and then they would grill nicely.

But whilst preparing I found the oddest thing I had never seen before.

Here they are:

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Can you see those odd scales along the side running up from the tail? They are called scutes, and look like combs.

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They are hard, bony, and don’t come off easily like scales. They have to be cut off. A very thin flexible knife will cut under them quite easily most of the way, but there are parts where the skin has to come off too. The fish also have very sharp fins all down their backs and under their bellies. Off with the lot.


Into a plastic bag with the marinade and into the fridge for the night.  To be grilled for about 4 mins each side, and served with new potatoes and salads.

And very nice too. Quite like mackerel in texture but less rich and oily, Bones are quite large, and a single fish was a good size for a portion.