Mackerel, vanilla, gooseberry, horseradish, lovage

  • medium
  • 4
  • 3 hours 20 minutes plus several days for the gooseberries to pickle and setting time for the gooseberry gel
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This dish by Gabriel Waterhouse layers acidity beautifully - cured mackerel is paired with vanilla-scented pickled gooseberries, a yoghurt and lovage emulsion and horseradish cream. Lovage leaves look and taste similar to celery leaves, and the citrusy herb is easy to grow at home.

First published in 2022




Pickled gooseberries

  • 300g of gooseberries, fresh or frozen
  • 300g of cane sugar
  • 300ml of white wine vinegar
  • 300ml of water
  • 1 vanilla pod, split

Cured Mackerel

Horseradish Sauce

Gooseberry Gel

  • 4g of agar agar

Lovage Oil

Lovage emulsion


  • Blowtorch
  • Muslin cloth



For the pickled gooseberries, first clean the gooseberries by topping and tailing them. If gooseberries aren’t in season you can use frozen


In a saucepan measure the sugar, vinegar, water and split vanilla pod and bring to a boil, then pour the hot pickle over the gooseberries and leave to cool at room temperature

  • 300g of cane sugar
  • 300ml of white wine vinegar
  • 300ml of water
  • 1 vanilla pod, split

Store in the fridge until needed. (NB: the gooseberries are best after several days, or when cut in half to allow the pickle to penetrate the insides)


To make the cured mackerel, start by removing the fillets from the fish and cutting each fillet in half lengthways


Make the brine by dissolving 30g salt in 500ml of cold water, soaking the mackerel fillets in it. Leave to brine for 30 minutes then drain


Make the cure by blending the fennel and coriander seeds then measuring the salt, sugar and lemon zest and mixing together in a bowl


Cover the mackerel fillets in the cure and leave for 20 minutes at room temperature


Wash the cure off with cold water and leave to drain. Place the mackerel skin side up onto an oiled baking tray and leave uncovered in the fridge to dry for several hours


For the horseradish sauce, weigh the cream, creamed horseradish and grated horseradish into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer


Remove from the heat and cover with a lid and leave to infuse for 1 hour


Once cool, warm gently once more to a simmer and add the lemon juice. Pass through a fine sieve pushing the cream through using the back of a spoon or ladle


To make the pickled gooseberry gel, strain the pickling liquid from the gooseberries and measure 250ml into a saucepan


Add to this the agar agar and bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 minutes before pouring into a container

  • 4g of agar agar

Cool at room temperature before placing in the fridge for several hours to set


When set, blend to a smooth gel. You can use any remaining pickling liquid to let down the gel if needed to achieve the right consistency


To make the lovage oil, first blanch the lovage leaves in heavily salted boiling water for 30 seconds


Chill under a cold running tap or icy water


Once chilled, squeeze away any excess water


Place the lovage and oil into a jug blender with a lid fitted loosely to allow any steam to escape

  • 300ml of vegetable oil

Blend the lovage and oil on high speed for several minutes. The herb oil might warm up slightly and produce some steam and the lovage should begin to split from the oil


Set a piece of muslin cloth or a fine tea towel over a sieve and pass the mixture, collecting the oil in a receptacle below. Discard the pulp and store the oil in the fridge until needed. 


To make the lovage emulsion, first whisk together the egg, mustard, white wine vinegar, salt and lemon juice


Set aside a few spoonfuls of the cooled lovage oil for finishing the dish. Whisk the remaining lovage oil into the egg mixture drop by drop until it begins to thicken and emulsify, then very slowly pour in the rest of the oil


Once the oil and egg mixture are emulsified, stir in the yoghurt. Store in the fridge until needed


Once ready to serve, remove the fish from the fridge 30 minutes before you want to cook it to allow it to come up to room temperature


Set your oven to 200°C and warm your serving bowls


Place the mackerel on an oven tray. Using a blow torch, char the fish skin until blackened.


Cook the mackerel in the oven for 2 minutes - the fish will cook very quickly, and it is better to undershoot it than overshoot it. When served it should still have a jelly-like texture


Spoon in the lovage emulsion, pickled gooseberries and gooseberry gel into the warmed bowls and pour in the horseradish sauce. Finish with the fish resting on the top with a few drops of lovage oil over the fish to split the cream and garnish with the bronzed fennel and nasturtium leaves

Determined to move away from the world of traditional fine dining, Gabriel Waterhouse started a supper club out of his own Hackney flat. Over time, this has evolved into his own permanent restaurant The Water House Project, where he serves a regularly changing tasting menu to guests in a deliberately relaxed and convivial atmosphere.

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