RECIPE: Pickled mackerel and beetroot salad

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RECIPE: Pickled mackerel and beetroot salad
Pickled mackerel and beetroot salad. Photo: Swedish Food

If you like pickled herring, then you will surely like pickled mackerel too, and food writer John Duxbury knows exactly how to make it.


There are so many wonderful Swedish flavours packed into this delicious starter that looks so snazzy. Of course, Swedes are famous for their pickled herring, but mackerel is often more available and of better quality abroad, so this is a good alternative. It needs to be made at least two days in advance, but the flavours improve if you can keep it a bit longer. (It will keep for several weeks in the fridge.)


Makes: 4 servings

Level: Easy

Preparation: 15 minutes*

Cooking: 20 minutes

TOTAL: 35 minues

*Needs preparing a few days in advance


• Serve with a glass of snaps, as is traditional in Sweden.


4 mackerel fillets

Brining solution

140g (½ cup) salt

1 litre (4 cups) water

Pickling solution

500 ml (2 cups) white vinegar (distilled malt vinegar, 5%)

250 ml (1 cup) water

50 g (¼ cup) caster (superfine) sugar

5 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

6 black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp yellow mustard seeds

3 tsp cardamom pods, lightly crushed

Pickling vegetables

2 carrots, thinly sliced

1 onion, sliced

Salad garnish

2 small cooked beetroots, thinly sliced

100 g (4 oz) mixed salad leaves

2 tbsp lemon and dill dressing (mix 1 tbsp lemon juice, 3 tbsp salad oil, 1 tbsp finely chopped dill and ½ tsp sugar)

balsamic glaze (available ready-made in bottles)

olive oil

a few small sprigs of dill


1. Pick over the fillets to check that there are no big bones left in them (small bones will dissolve in the vinegar).

2. Mix the salt and water for the brining solution, but there is no need to heat it. Place the fillets in the solution for 3 hours, or until the fish is firm.

3. Place all the pickling ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Let cool.

4. Put the fish fillets and the pickling vegetables in a sterilised glass jar or container. Pour the pickling solution into the jar until all the fish is covered. Prod the fish lightly to release any trapped air. Cover with a lid and refrigerate for at least two days, preferably longer.

5. Place 3 or 4 slices of beetroot on each plate. Mix the salad with the dressing, add pickled carrots and place on top of the beetroot slices.

6. Roll the mackerel up with some pickled onion in the centre and sit on top of the salad. Top with some tiny dill sprigs.

7. Drizzle with some balsamic glaze and a little olive oil.

This recipe is published courtesy of John Duxbury, founder and editor of Swedish Food.


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