Monday, 15 April 2013

Mackerel in a Coriander Crust

The Podcast History recently set sail across the sea and arrived on the shores of ancient Greece, so to celebrate, I'm going to cook up a seafood feast.  Fish was something which the Ancient Greeks loved.  For some of them, when it comes to fish, simplicity is key.  A chef in Philemon's Soldier says:

"How tender was the fish before me!  What a dish I made of it!  Not drugged senseless with cheese, nor window-boxed with dandifying herbs, it emerged from the oven as naked as the day it was born." - Philemon, The Soldier, fr. 82

Whilst in Morocco, I had the chance to eat fish (lots of fish!) freshly caught, prepared, and grilled in front of me, and it was divine!  Philemon's chef has it right - simplicity works - but it's hardly very exciting for you if I just throw a kipper under the grill.  So, even though this first recipe has some of those 'dandifying herbs' we're told to avoid, and even though it's an Apician recipe, it is still remarkably simple, and would have appealed to the simple tastes of the chef above.

Mackerel in a Coriander Crust
(Serves 1 as a main, or several as a starter)

"Carefully prepare the fish.  In a mortar and pestle, crush up some coriander seeds and salt, making sure to mix them well.  Roll the fish around in this mixture, cover it, and bake it in the oven.  When it's ready, sprinkle it with a strong vinegar and serve." - Apicius, 10.1.4


  • 1 Fresh Mackerel (or Un-Smoked Mackerel Fillets)
  • 50g Coriander Seeds
  • 1 tbsp Salt
  • White Wine Vinegar


  • If you're using a whole mackerel, you need to fillet it.  Here's a video showing you how to do just that.  This can be quite tricky, so feel free to have a fish-monger do it for you, or just buy pre-cut mackerel fillets instead.
  • Next, grind up the coriander seeds and the salt - I used my trusty mortar and pestle to do this.  Make sure everything is well mixed together.
  • Pat the fish dry and coat it in this mixture - just like bread-crumbing a fish.  I didn't use quite enough when I was preparing mine, so use a bit more than in the picture below.

  • Place the fillets on an oiled baking tray and pop this in the oven at 180 Celsius for 15-20 minutes.
  • Once it comes out of the oven, pour a little white wine vinegar over each fillet to moisten it.  After that, dig in and enjoy.


Superbly simple to prepare, and immensely enjoyable to eat.  Coriander seed has a delicious citrusy taste, which shines through wonderfully.  It also helps to cut through the oiliness of the fish, making this dish feel very light and fresh.  Adding vinegar whilst serving adds a slight tang, but doesn't overwhelm the coriander flavours.

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