How to make: the Unruly Pig's grilled mackerel

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Cooking style: the Unruly Pig uses its Inka grill to blacken the beetroots
Cooking style: the Unruly Pig uses its Inka grill to blacken the beetroots
Brighten up a grey weekend with this recipe for grilled mackerel with hay-smoked beetroot and sunflower seeds courtesy of Top 50 Gastropub the Unruly Pig, in Woodbridge, Suffolk

(Serves four)


  • 4 whole mackerel (approx 400g per fish), gutted, cleaned and trimmed
  • 320g sunflower seeds
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 3 large beetroots
  • 2 baby beetroots
  • Good-quality white wine vinegar
  • Approx 15 fronds of chives, finely snipped
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • Quarter of lemon for juice
  • 120g fresh goats’ curd
  • A couple of handfuls of natural untreated hay (you could get this from a farm shop or even a pet shop)


Begin with the beetroots. First blacken them – we do this directly over charcoal on our Inka grill but you could do it on a barbecue or directly on a char-grill. Just put them straight on without oil so that they blacken.

Put the hay into an old thick-bottomed pot or roasting dish and set it on fire (be careful!), chuck the beetroots in and cover tightly with foil, then roast in the oven at 165°C for 45 minutes to one hour. Check that they’re cooked by poking with the tip of a small knife – there should be little resistance. Scrape off the skins and allow to cool slightly before cutting into chunky wedges.

We use baby heritage beetroots for pickled beets but they will probably be hard to get hold of so you could use regular baby or young beets. Slice them razor thin. We use a mandolin slicer but you could use a peeler. Stamp them into neat circles and place straight into the vinegar for at least an hour. It is crucial that you use a good-quality white wine vinegar.

Cook the sunflower seeds in boiling, slightly salted water for five to six minutes until they start to become tender but still retain a bite. Refresh under cold running water to cool down, drain well and then lay out on a tray to dry slightly.

Heat the sunflower oil to 160°C and then fry half the seeds for 30 seconds until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a tray or plate.

Briefly sweat the shallot in a drop of oil, add the blanched sunflower seeds, warm through and then mix through the crispy seeds. Finish with the chives and a squeeze of lemon juice and add salt if needed.

Grill or barbecue the mackerel until crispy and just cooked in the middle, this depends on the heat of your grill and the size of your fish but it could be anything from two to four minutes each side. Check the resistance with your knife again as you did the beetroot.

Reheat the beets and serve, crumbling the goats’ curd over the sunflower seeds.

And to drink?

A refreshingly acidic Sauvignon Blanc pairs perfectly with this dish. For beer lovers, Thornbridge Wild Raven’s pine, citrus and tropical fruit flavours go hand in hand with mackerel.

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