This masala paste is quite punchy and fragrant, making it ideal for a rich and oily fish. The crunchy onion salad is also a great foil for the spiced fish, especially if perfumed with smoke from grilling over real coals. A griddle pan or gas barbecue will do a fine job, too, just get the surface as hot as possible before cooking. You could substitute sardines, sand mullet or salmon cutlets for this, but remember to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
4 x 400g whole mackerel, skin slashed on an angle
For the masala
2 dried long red chillies, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes
10cm piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp black peppercorns, lightly ground
1½ tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp salt flakes
For the onion salad
1 white onion, finely sliced in rings
6 coriander sprigs, leaves and fine stems picked
6 flat-leaf parsley sprigs, leaves picked
1½ tsp coriander seeds, lightly toasted and ground
½ tsp salt flakes
juice of 1 lime
2 pinches of cayenne pepper
1 lime, cut into wedges to garnish
1. Blitz all the masala ingredients in a blender with 2 tablespoons of the chilli-soaking water to form a slightly wet paste. Then massage the paste into the fish and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour.
2. For the salad, soak the onion rings in iced water for 5 minutes, then drain well. Meanwhile, preheat a barbecue or griddle pan on high.
3. Toss the onion with the herbs, ground coriander, salt and lime juice.
4. Grill the fish for about 6 minutes on each side, then serve with the salad on the side and the cayenne sprinkled over the top, with the lime wedges to garnish.