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Grilled Mackerel with Hay Smoked Beetroot and Sunflower Seeds from The Unruly Pig, Nr. Woodbridge, Suffolk

Cook at Home

We love this recipe from The Unruly Pig, a 16th Century Suffolk inn named as the ‘Best Pub in Suffolk’ and receiving rave reviews since opening. Head Chef Dave Wall, who has a classical training having worked at the likes of Bibendum and Gordon Ramsay (Claridges and The Boxwood Cafe) as well as Le Talbooth in Dedham, challenges the talented cooks amongst you to create Grilled Mackerel with Hay Smoked Beetroot and Sunflower Seeds.



Prep Time

60 mins

Cooking Time

30 mins


  • 4 x whole mackerel (approx. 400g fish), gutted, cleaned and trimmed
  • 320g sunflower seeds
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 3 large beetroot
  • 2 baby beetroots
  • Good quality white wine vinegar
  • Approx. 15 fronds of chives finely snipped
  • 1 shallot finely chopped
  • quarter of lemon for juice
  • 120g fresh goat’s curd
  • A couple of handfuls of natural untreated hay (you could get this from a farm shop or even a pet shop!)


To make the hay smoked beetroot

  • First, blacken the beetroot. This can be done directly over charcoal on a BBQ or directly on a chargrill. Just put them straight on without oil so that they char and blacken.
  • Put the hay into an old thick-bottomed pot or roasting dish and set it on fire (be careful!).
  • Chuck the beetroots in and cover tightly with foil, then roast in the oven at 165°C for 45mins – 1hour.
  • Check that they’re cooked by poking with the tip of a small knife – there should be little resistance. Scrape off the skins and allow to cool a bit before cutting into chunky wedges.
  • Slice them razor thin – use a mandolin if possible, but if you don’t have one you could use a peeler. Stamp them into neat circles and place straight into the vinegar for at least an hour. It’s crucial that you use decent vinegar here.

To make the sunflower seeds

  • Cook the sunflower seeds in boiling, slightly salted water for 5-6 minutes until they start to become tender but still retain a bite.
  • Refresh under cold running water to cool down, drain well and then lay out on a tray to dry out a bit.
  • Heat the sunflower oil to 160°C and then fry off half the seeds for 30 seconds to go crispy.
  • Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a tray or plate.
  • Briefly, sweat the shallot in a drop of oil, add the blanched sunflower seeds, warm through and then mix through the crispy seeds.
  • Finish with the chives and a squeeze of lemon juice, and add salt if needed.

To make the mackerel

  • Grill or BBQ the mackerel until nice and crispy and just cooked in the middle. This depends on the heat of your grill and the size of your fish, but it could be anything from 2-4 minutes each side.
  • Check the resistance with your knife again as you did the beetroot.

To Serve

  • Plate the mackerel and sprinkle with the parsley.
  • Reheat the beets, crumbling the goat’s curd over the sunflower seeds and add to the plate.
  • Enjoy!

Chef’s Tip: If possible use baby heritage beetroots for pickled beets but they may be hard to get hold of so you could use regular baby or young beets.

The Unruly Pig, Orford Road, Bromeswell, Nr. Woodbridge, IP12 2PU

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