Cooking with Max Rocha: Mackerel, Fennel and Jersey Royals

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Max Rocha Chef Recipe Mackerel Fennel Barbecue
Photography courtesy of Max Rocha

London-based chef Max Rocha shares a recipe to make the most of the season: barbecued mackerel with gremolata, fennel and a jersey royal salad

Max Rocha is a London-based chef who has worked at some of London’s finest restaurants, from St John Bread and Wine to The River Café. Over the coming weeks, he will share a series of seasonal recipes to enjoy while restaurants remain shut.

As the weather improves, cooking outside is a nice change if you have access to a garden with a barbecue or can find a safe space to use a disposable barbecue. If not, a griddle pan would work perfectly fine. For this recipe, I’ve bought almost all of the ingredients from the brilliant Steve Hatt Fishmonger in Angel. From fresh fish and fennel to the jersey royals, they have a brilliant selection of seasonal produce. We’re at the height of jersey royal season, so eat them as much as you can. Their waxy nutty flavour is a beautiful accompaniment to grilled meat and fish.  

Mackerel is relatively cheap and grills really well. If you can’t get your hands on fresh mackerel, sardines are a great substitute for this recipe. Ask your fishmonger to scale and clean the fish. Both of the salads should be served at room temperature, so it’s best to prepare them first and grill the fish just before you want to sit down and eat. Gremolata adds good flavour and texture to the fish while providing a cover up to damaged skin caused during the cooking process if you’re trying to impress someone. This recipe serves two.

Mackerel and Gremolata 

One whole large mackerel
Small bunch of parsley, chopped
100 grams bread crumbs
Zest of one lemon


  1. Place breadcrumbs in a pan, dress with olive oil, season with salt and put into a medium to high pre-heated oven until golden brown. Around ten minutes or so.
  2. When breadcrumbs are golden brown allow them to cool, then stir through some chopped parsley, lemon zest and set aside.


  1. Slash the skin of the fish, season and drizzle with olive oil.
  2. Place mackerel on a preheated barbecue or grill pan. Cook for three to five minutes on each side. Only turn the fish once.
  3. The fish is cooked when the flesh comes away easily from the bone.
  4. When cooked, place on a plate to rest and sprinkle on your gremolata.

Marinated Fennel

Two large fennel heads
Small bunch parsley, chopped
Zest of one lemon
Olive oil
Dried chilli

  1. Slice fennel into one centimetre slices horizontally so it shows the full shape of the fennel.
  2. Blanch the fennel in boiling water for seven minutes or until a knife goes through easily.
  3. Place cooked fennel on a draining tray. When cooled, place them on a pre-heated barbecue to give them some colour marks. This should take two minutes on each side.
  4. Once you have some nice colour on the fennel, place in a bowl with chopped parsley, a pinch of dry chilli, zest of one lemon and a good coating of good olive oil. Season to taste.

Jersey Royal Salad 

400 grams jersey royals (or standard baby potatoes)
50 grams crème fraîche
50 grams Dijon mustard
50 grams olive oil
Small bunch of dill, chopped

  1. Boil potatoes in salty water until fully cooked. This should take 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Allow them to cool.
  3. For the dressing, mix together the crème fraîche, mustard, olive oil and chopped dill.
  4. Mix dressing with the potatoes and season to taste.