Masala mackerel fry with pineapple, ginger and black pepper chutney 

One of the perks of having lived on my market street for the best part of a decade is that the market traders occasionally give me freebies. This takes many forms: some advice here, ‘you’ve got lipstick on yer teeth, love’, an unlocked phone there, sometimes a handful of green chillies but this time, two pineapples.

These pineapples were past their best to sell but perfectly ripe and sweet to eat. Characteristically for ripe pineapples, they had an intensely tropical smell, golden bodies but dry and slightly withered leaves. Perfect for eating immediately or preserving in a chutney.


Mackerel and fruit have long since been paired together. Mackerel is a very oily fish with a strong flavour which definitely needs something clean, sharp and bright to cut through it. A sprightly chutney like this made with lots of fresh ginger and lime is perfect.


Although mackerel is pretty tasty just by itself, because it’s a ‘fishy’ fish it can take a fair bit of added flavour without overpowering it’s own and in my opinion benefits from the additional garlic and lemon among other spices. Masala or spice frying mackerel this way is common on the coast in the South of India, where it is known as ‘Bangda Fry’ although I’ve simplified the spicing from the original version of this recipe for the sake of a quicker and lighter mid-week supper.

As well as with pineapple chutney, this mackerel is good with: naan, cucumber raita, dal or sprouting kachumbar salad on the side.

Masala Mackerel Fry

Serves 2

  • 2 medium sized mackerel (around 250g each)
  • 3 fat garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon chilli powder
  • ¾ level teaspoon salt
  • rapeseed oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon juice

Chop the heads and fins off the mackerel and score down the bellies and backs right to the tip of the tail. Flatten out and wash under the cold tap, removing any guts with your thumb and any large bones with your fingers. Pat dry then lightly score.


In a shallow dish (big enough to fit the mackerel) add the garlic, coriander, cumin, black pepper, chilli, salt, two tablespoons of rapeseed oil and lemon juice and whisk together with a fork until mixed properly. Coat the mackerel in the marinade and leave to soak up – in the meantime, make the chutney.

When you’re ready to fry the mackerel add a tablespoon of oil or two to a non-stick frying pan and heat it over a medium to high heat. When hot, put the mackerel in, skin side down for around 4 minutes. Shuffle a little to ensure it doesn’t stick then flip over (using a fish slice) and cook for a further two minutes on the other side then slide out onto a plate.

Pineapple, ginger and black pepper chutney

Makes 380ml (approx.) or one large jar

  • 5 tablespoons rapeseed oil
  • 3 teaspoons black mustard seeds (2 coarsely ground, 1 whole)
  • 2 large ripe pineapples (675g pineapple), diced into 1-2cm cubes
  • 3/4 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 level teaspoon black pepper
  • 3cm ginger, peeled + grated
  • 1 ¼ level teaspoons salt
  • 125g sugar
  • Juice of two limes (around 50ml)


Firstly, cut the top and the base of your pineapple and discard then stand your pineapple upright and begin to cut away the skin from the sides from top to bottom. If there are ‘eyes’ still left in the sides, gouge them out with the tip of a knife.

Now cut the flesh of the pineapple away from the round fibrous core in the middle, then dice up the flesh.

In a large, non-stick frying pan, heat the oil over a medium heat. When hot add the mustard seeds and when the seeds start to pop, add the ginger, chilli powder, salt, pepper and diced pineapple. Stir to coat and cook for around 20 minutes, stirring in-frequently.

Now add the sugar and lime juice and cook for a further 15-20 minutes until the pineapple looks translucent and soft and all the liquid has reduced and looks a bit like jam.

Taste and adjust the salt, sugar or lime as you wish then bottle into a scrupulously clean jar. Will keep for a week or so in the fridge.