James Morton’s Oatmeal-Fried Mackerel


James Morton recreates a childhood classic with this Scottish fried-mackerel dish

This is a dish I had often as a child; it’s a Scots classic. And I hated it. Not because it wasn’t good, but because my economical parents tried to convince me that we were having ‘breaded fish’. Which I took to mean fried haddock with mash or chips and beans or peas. You can imagine the emotional scarring.

Now, of course, I cannot believe what my closed mind was missing. There isn’t a hint of nostalgia in the enjoyment of this dish. It’s wonderful, crisp and buttery oats with melting, oily flesh beneath. The lemon sets it off perfectly. Serve with boiled potatoes soaked in big knobs of butter.

• 4 mackerel or 8 mackerel fillets
• 150g (1¼ cups) pinhead oatmeal
• 2 medium eggs
• plain (all-purpose) flour, for dusting
• table salt
• 1 lemon
• at least 100g (3½oz) butter

Serves 4 (2 fillets each)

1 Catch, gut and fillet the mackerel. Pat the flesh dry with 
kitchen paper.
2 Prepare four plates: put your flour onto the first and season with a large pinch of salt; onto the next, break your egg, adding another pinch of salt, and beat with a fork; onto the third, place your oatmeal and season this, too, for good measure. Keep the fourth plate clear.
3 Dunk a fillet into the flour and shake off any excess. Place immediately into the egg and flip over so both sides are covered. Hold it up by the tail end for the excess to drip off.
4 Finally, dunk in the seasoned oatmeal. Once covered, 
pat off any excess and place on the enigmatic fourth plate.
5 Preheat a heavy-based frying pan – preferably cast iron – over a medium heat. Once hot, add half the butter. If it spits and turns brown straight away, take it off the heat and let it cool for a minute or two.
6 Fry your 
prepared mackerel, four at a time if possible, for a couple of minutes on each side, or until light golden brown and crisp. If some of the oats are dry, add more butter.
7 Keep the cooked fish on a baking tray in a low oven while 
you fry the rest.
Serve with lemon straight away.

Recipe courtesy of James & Tom Morton, extracted from Shetland

PLUS: This book has been shortlisted in the food category for the André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards 2018. Founded in 1978, the André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards are the only awards in the UK to exclusively recognise the achievements of food and drink writers and are the longest continuous running awards of their kind.

The first two awards were given to Elizabeth David and Rosemary Hume for their outstanding contribution in the fields of food and cooking. Other winners include Michel Roux, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Nigel Slater and Rick Stein. Click here for more.

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