Lightly pickled mackerel with pine nut and sake sauce and finger lime

  • medium
  • 4
  • 1 hour 30 minutes plus overnight to dehydrate
Not yet rated

Try out this interesting mackerel recipe from Leo Carreira. He first brines the fish to both season and firm up the flesh, before lightly pickling the fillets in a pickle of rice vinegar, mirin, sake and kombu seaweed. He serves it with a fresh salad of mixed cresses, a tart finger lime powder and an intriguing sake and pine nut sauce. Needless to say, the quality of the mackerel is paramount!

First published in 2022




Mackerel pickle

  • 100ml of rice vinegar
  • 50ml of mineral water
  • 40ml of mirin
  • 20ml of sake
  • 30g of dried kombu

Pine nut and sake sauce

To serve

Fermented finger lime powder


  • Dehydrator
  • Spice grinder
  • Blender



The finger limes need fermenting for 10 days then dehydrating overnight, so start with these a few weeks beforehand. Weigh the finger limes then place them in a vacuum bag. Work out 2% of the weight and add that amount of salt to the bag. Seal and leave at room temperature for 10 days to ferment




After 10 days, open the bag and pat the limes dry as they will have excreted liquid. Slice them in half lengthways and place in a dehydrator set at 45ºC overnight. Once completely dried out and crisp, blitz to a powder using a spice grinder or high powered blender. Store in an airtight container


On the day you plan to serve the dish, start by brining the mackerel fillets. This will firm up the flesh a little whilst seasoning them evenly throughout. Place a little of the water in a pan with the salt, then gently heat and stir until dissolved. Transfer this to a container larger enough to fit the fillets, then top up with the rest of the cold water. Add the fillets (ensuring the brine is at room temperature or colder) and leave in the fridge to brine for 1 hour


Meanwhile, make the sauce. Place a frying pan over a low heat with a dash of oil and, once hot, add the sliced shallot. Cook for around 4 minutes until soft and translucent then add in the pine nuts


Once the pine nuts have coloured a little, add the sake and cook for around 8 minutes. Transfer to a blender and blitz until smooth, adding in the olive oil as the motor runs to emulsify the mixture slightly. Taste and season with salt, then set aside (the sauce is served at room temperature)

  • 120g of sake, (cooking sake if you can find it)
  • 50ml of olive oil
  • sea salt

Remove the fillets from the brine, then use fish tweezers to pin-bone them. There is a shiny film over the skin – carefully but firmly peel it away, leaving the silvery pattern on the flesh but removing the tougher, slimy membrane


Combine the vinegar, mineral water, mirin, sake and dried kombu in a container and add the mackerel. Leave to pickle in the fridge for 25 minutes. After this time, remove the fillets and leave to dry out a little on a tray lined with a j-cloth

  • 100ml of rice vinegar
  • 50ml of mineral water
  • 40ml of mirin
  • 20ml of sake
  • 30g of dried kombu

Now you are ready to serve. Neatly score the mackerel with 5mm gaps. Spoon some sauce onto each plate and top each with a fillet of mackerel. Cover with mixed herbs, cresses and edible flowers and a good sprinkling of finger lime powder. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt

First published in 2022

An alumnus of Mugaritz and Nuno Mendes' Viajante, Leo Carreira is carving his own trailblazing path and rethinking how fish and seafood should be prepared and cooked at The Sea, The Sea in Hackney.

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