Ixta Belfrage's Mackerel Udon

I love mackerel in all forms, and tinned mackerel is one of my favourite go-to cupboard ingredients when I need a quick dinner. This recipe is inspired by a simple (and delicious) tinned mackerel stir-fry my friend Joe made for me a few times. I’ve complicated this version somewhat by adding pickled cucumber and crispy aromatics, but it’s still very straightforward. Use marinated tofu instead of the mackerel to keep this dish vegan. I like the noodles to be chilled here, but you can serve them warm if you prefer.

Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main

This recipe was extracted from 'Mezcla: Recipes To Excite' by Ixta Belfrage (published by Ebury Press; photography by Yuki Sugiura)

Ingredients Serves: 2

  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved and watery centre scraped out
  • 1 teaspoon flaked salt
  • 2½ tablespoons lime juice
  • 300g straight-to-wok udon noodles
  • 2 x 115g tins of mackerel in olive oil, drained (or use marinated tofu)
  • 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted (I like to use a mix of black and white)
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges, to serve

For the Dressing

  • 5 tablespoons mild and light olive oil or sunflower oil
  • 40g ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 2 large mild red chillies, finely sliced into rounds (deseeded if you prefer less heat)
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick, bashed with the side of a knife
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1½ tablespoons maple syrup
  • ¾ teaspoon toasted sesame oil


  1. Cut the cucumber into ½cm-thick diagonal slices. In a medium bowl, mix the cucumber with the flaked salt and the lime juice. Set aside to pickle while you make the rest, or for up to 1 hour.
  2. In a large bowl, cover the noodles with boiling water and leave for 5 minutes, then drain well and refrigerate while you make the dressing.
  3. Put the oil into a medium saucepan on a medium heat. Once hot, add the ginger, chillies, star anise and cinnamon and gently fry, stirring often to separate the aromatics, until the ginger is crisp and golden. This will take about 5 minutes but watch closely, as the ginger can turn from golden to burned quite quickly. Drain through a heatproof sieve set over a heatproof bowl to collect the aromatic oil. Set the crispy aromatics aside.
  4. Transfer 3 tablespoons of the aromatic oil to a separate bowl along with the soy sauce, maple syrup and sesame oil. Use any remaining oil for another recipe.
  5. Toss the noodles with the cucumber (avoiding the pickling liquid). Transfer to a lipped platter, then top with the tinned mackerel. Spoon over the dressing, followed by the crispy aromatics, spring onions and sesame seeds. Serve with lime wedges alongside.
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