Flamed mackerel with cucumber, dill and capers

A beautiful bright starter that's perfect for preparing in advance, this mackerel dish from Jun Tanaka pairs the oily fish with a Mediterranean-meets-Japanese garnish that sings with tangy, zingy flavours. Based on a traditional Japanese technique called shime sabe, the curing and pickling of the mackerel adds a deep level of umami to the fish.

Watch Jun prepare this dish and get extra insight, tips and tricks to pulling it off perfectly over on our Signature Series page.

First published in 2020
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  • Blowtorch


To prepare the mackerel, scatter a layer of coarse rock salt on the base of a tray large enough to fit all the fillets in a single layer. Lay the mackerel on top of the salt, then scatter over the remaining salt, ensuring the fish is completely covered. Place in the fridge to cure for 1.5 hours
While the mackerel cures, prepare the pickled cucumber and shallot. Warm the 180ml of rice wine vinegar in a saucepan with the sugar, chillies and ginger until the sugar dissolves, then remove from the heat. Place the diced shallot and cucumber into the hot pickle and leave to cool and pickle for at least 1 hour
Pour the 400ml of rice wine vinegar into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the kombu, then set aside to cool to room temperature and infuse
Once cured, wash the salt off the mackerel and submerge in the cooled kombu vinegar. Set aside for 30 minutes
After 30 minutes, the mackerel should have turned white on the outside but remain raw in the middle. Use a pair of tweezers to carefully remove the thin membrane on the mackerel skin, then check and remove any pin bones on the fleshy sides of the fillets
Add the chopped dill, samphire, capers, a little olive oil and lemon juice to a bowl, then drain the pickled cucumber and shallots (discarding the chilli and ginger) and stir it through to create the garnish. Taste for seasoning, then set aside
  • 1/2 bunch of dill, chopped
  • 50g of samphire, pickled and blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds
  • 50g of mini capers, washed
  • 50ml of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • sea salt
Slice the mackerel fillets into 1cm pieces, then use a blowtorch to char the skin. Transfer to serving plates, then top with the pickled cucumber garnish. Finish with a final drizzle of olive oil and serve

After learning his craft in the UK’s best restaurants throughout the 1990s, Jun Tanaka utilises his rigorous classical training to create impeccable small plates of French and Mediterranean food at his relaxed neighbourhood restaurant in Fitzrovia.

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