Gino D'Acampo Salads

Polenta-crusted mackerel with a tomato and basil salad

Polenta-crusted mackerel with a tomato and basil salad

By Gino’s Italian Escape

When Gino visited Lake Como he met veteran fisherman Ernesto Colombo, who has been fishing in the waters for decades. He told him all about agone – the native freshwater fish that arrive on the lake’s shores in early summer to spawn.

Agone is hard to find in Britain, but mackerel is similar. You can buy mackerel fillets in some supermarkets, but if you’re buying whole mackerel ask your fishmonger to fillet and V-bone them.

Serves 4


– 2 garlic cloves, peeled
– Small handful (about 25g) fresh basil leaves
– 1 unwaxed lemon
– 75ml extra virgin olive oil
– 600g fresh mixed cherry or Heirloom tomatoes, halved or quartered
– 2 large eggs
– 100g fine polenta
– 8 fresh mackerel fillets
– 150ml vegetable oil
– Salt and freshly ground black pepper


First make the salad. Use a pestle and mortar to pound the garlic into a paste with some salt and pepper. Add half the basil and pound again. Halve the lemon and squeeze out the juice from one half. Add the juice to the garlic mixture then gradually whisk in the olive oil until well combined. Taste for seasoning. Put the tomatoes in a large bowl, pour over the dressing and stir to coat. Set aside.

Crack the eggs into a small bowl, add a pinch of salt and whisk lightly. Spread out the polenta on a large plate. Wipe the mackerel fillets dry with kitchen paper and coat first in the egg and then in the polenta, patting the grains into the egg so they stick.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium to high heat. To test if the oil is ready, add a pinch of polenta to the pan – it will sizzle until the oil is hot enough for frying. Fry the fillets for 1 minute each side or until golden and crisp, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

Stir the remaining basil into the salad and cut the remaining lemon half into 4 wedges. Place a large spoonful of the tomato salad on a serving plate and arrange 2 mackerel fillets on top. Serve with lemon wedges.

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