Me and my husband Ben have got a good thing going: he catches the fish, from his boat off Newhaven harbour, and I sell them at the shop we opened on Rottingdean High Street last October. That’s if I don’t cook them up for the family. We’ve got six kids and we eat fish every day. We never get sick of it.
It’s mackerel season until October, and it’s been a good one so far. Ben goes out every day, if it’s calm enough, in our ten-metre trawler, Emma Louise. It’s our third boat – he’s been fishing for 20 years now. Because Newhaven is so tidal, he either goes out for eight hours, or 18 hours. He catches all sorts, from cuttlefish to cod. I go out with him when I can, I love it. You’re so free, out there, miles from anywhere.
These mackerel were swimming in the sea yesterday. You’ve got to eat them fresh. They are pelagic, which means they swim far and wide hunting food. They need a ready source of energy which is why their flesh is so oily. This oil is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which are very good for you. All I’ve done to the mackerel is gut them, taken the heads and tails off, and put four deep slits in the flesh, on either side.
I believe in eating sustainable, seasonal, locally sourced food. I get all my vegetables from Deveson, the greengrocers down the road, who have the same values. The only fish we buy in is some of our seafood. For this I go to Billingsgate Market.
You eat with your eyes, as well as your mouth, so I like to make things colourful. So the bed for the fish is made up of a range of vegetables, all rough-chopped: yellow courgettes (green ones aren’t as pretty); shallots, which are sweeter than onions and don’t make you cry; heritage tomatoes, in different colours; flatleaf parsley, from our garden; red pepper; a couple of chillies to give it some zing, and smoked garlic, which smells just great. And some baby carrots, whole, with their green bits still on, for the visual effect. I don’t believe in peeling or scrubbing these.
The vegetables are artfully laid out in a big oven-proof dish, with the fish laid on top. I smear these with a mix of extra-virgin olive oil and fish spice mix, both of which I source from local businesses and sell in the shop. The Mesto oil is pressed by a Hove woman who has her own olive grove in Crete.
Then you just put it in the oven for half an hour, but you could equally cook it on a fire pit if you’ve got one in your garden. Nothing could be simpler: this dish I’ve made up for the photo will feed our whole family this evening, and we’ll all love every mouthful.
The Mermaid, 100 High Street, Rottingdean