He says, she says: Mackerel in Tomato Sauce

Monsieur and I decided we needed to start eating healthier this summer. So here’s the first installment in my new blog series “He says, she says” where we plan on cooking, then chatting over the results. Somes recipes will be borrowed from our favourite books and blogs or the recipe cardex from friends; others will be classics we try to turn on their heads and cook healthier; and finally, of course, we will be creating our own recipes since we both are devoted homecooks. Now, this series would never come off the ground if I tried to take great, food stylist photographs; that boat has sailed, leaving my DNA in the docks, so apologies in advance for the humdrum pix.

I’m Québécoise and he’s African. I’m a woman, he’s a man, and foodwise, that can be a great divide. I’m an adventurous eater and he’s picky to the bone. I’ll try anything at least once, he has some some strong no-nos, tied to his upbringing and not religion. I love fruits and vegetables, he’s a devoted meat eater. I’m a food writer who knows about nutrition and calories pretty much inside out. He just loves to eat and is in complete denial about what’s a reasonable portion size for rice.

In other words, we are at opposite ends of the culinary spectrum whenever we plan dinner. This new healthy resolution should lead to even healthier confrontations, and provide a convenient excuse (shhhh now…) to serve up recipes he would never try otherwise. Things are about to get fun, shall we say.




The first recipe at bat? Monsieur’s very own Mackerel in Tomato Sauce, a recipe he makes on such a regular basis, I tend to take it for granted. Mackerel is big in our house. It’s one of those small oily fishes they recommend eating more of because it’s sustainable and rich in omega-3. Not the most photogenic of dishes but good, down home fare.

— Is this recipe your own or did you grow up eating it?

— We always ate a lot of fresh fish when I was a kid, I tweaked this recipe until I got close to the taste I remember. Fresh fish was considered poor man’s food, as opposed to dry, smoked or salted fish.

— Why? Here, fresh is the most expensive.

— Because it’s everywhere I guess, you go fish it in the morning in the river nearby, then you cook it with the tomatoes and spices growing in your backyard. You can buy whole fried mackerel at roadside stands too, they are mindblowing.

— I always stress about cooking mackerel, cause I get worried kiddo will choke on the bones. There’s a lot of them…

— Yes, in Africa, we start to eat bony fish around the age of 2, 3. You learn to deal with bones quickly, so you develop a tougher oesophagus maybe? When a bone gets very stuck, your parents will feed you fufu* until the bone sticks to the dough and goes down.

— I can see making this dish with Swiss chard. You could also literally transform this dish depending on the spices used. I know you’re in love with that cajun mix, but if it were me, I’d use the Silk Road Blend from Épices de Cru.

— You’re such a foodie, you complicate everything.

— Yeah, yeah, yeah. I love this dish, but you really need to mind the bones, though most are attached to the spine… It may be too much work for a North-American eater, there’s a reason why salmon is so popular over here.

— I don’t like salmon.

— I know, boy do I know.

* Fufu, popular throughout Africa and the national dish of Nigeria, is made from cassava flour mixed with water, then cooked until it forms a sticky dough. It’s served on a large, communal platter. You eat it by making little balls of dough, then dipping them into stew.


  • 1. Heat 30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, oregano and salt, then cook a few minutes or until onion softens.
  • 2. Add the tomato paste and mix well. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
  • 3. Add mackerel pieces, then mix to coat well. Cover pot and continue cooking 5 minutes.
  • 4. Add chicken broth and fresh or canned tomatoes. Season with choice of spice blend. Simmer 15 minutes over medium heat, mixing once or twice very gently so as not to break fish pieces.
  • 5. Add frozen spinach (do not defrost) or chopped spinach and let cook in sauce another 5-10 minutes. (Do not overcook at this stage or the spinach will turn greyish and boring.) When spinach is cooked, it's ready. Drizzle a little olive oil and serve over rice or boiled plantain.