I'VE never been won over to the old tradition of rolling mackerel fillets in oats before cooking. I like oats, I love mackerel, just not together. For me, oats act as a barrier, preventing the skin from becoming crisp during cooking. The robust, roasted flavour of brittle seared skin in contrast with the moist briny flesh, just underdone and melting beneath it, is the whole point of pan-fried mackerel. I don’t think there is a finer fish afloat; certainly you don’t need to muck about with it. In fact I even would eat mackerel raw, so let’s start there.

I am lucky to get mackerel whipped out of the north sea and brought to me instantly so that the silvered flesh is stiff and glistening with freshness: eyes bright and sparkling, gills a vivid, fresh red, not turning a dull brown (a sign it's been out of the water for some time).

Seared fillets of mackerel with cauliflower cous cous and pink grapefruit

Recipes serve four as a starter

4 very fresh mackerel, filleted and pin bones removed by the fishmonger

1 avocado

Juice and zest of 1 small lemon

1 pink grapefruit

1 head cauliflower

A rounded dstsp chopped chervil or parsley and tarragon

Vegetable oil for frying

Olive oil for the cauliflower cous cous

A few strands of picked dill and chervil to finish

1. Cauliflower cous cous. Working over a wide bowl and using a small paring knife, shave over the surface of the cauliflower to create lots of tiny florets, so they drop into the bowl like small grains of cous cous. Continue until the whole surface of the cauliflower has been shaved, leaving a bald stem. Now halve (lengthways), deseed and finely dice the chilli. Heat a small to medium sized saucepan over a gentle heat and add a dessertspoon of olive oil then fry the chilli slowly for five minutes. Add the prepared cauliflower, season lightly and fry gently, stirring regularly, until the cauliflower has softened a little but still has a slight bite. Add the lemon juice and zest. Set aside. Once cold, stir in the herbs, taste and adjust for seasoning.

2. Remove fish from fridge 10 minutes before serving. Meanwhile top and tail the grapefruit with a carving knife then place it on a chopping board on its flat base. Carve from top to bottom, following the curve of the fruit, to remove the skin and all the white pith beneath, revealing the flesh of the fruit. Holding the peeled grapefruit over a small bowl, cut in between the membranes of pith to give clean segments. You can either leave these as slivers like this or cut them into small diced pieces. Store prepared grapefruit in the bowl of its own juice

3. Halve the avocado lengthways. Remove the stone then with a dessert spoon, scoop out each avocado half from the skin in one piece. Slice each half into 6 or 8 pieces.

4. Cooking the fish takes only minutes, so have everything ready. Place the cauliflower cous cous in a saucepan and warm gently in a little more olive oil. Meanwhile, heat a wide frying pan, or two if you can; alternatively, heat the grill to a high setting (see step 5 for this). Cook four fillets at a time in one frying pan. Add a dessertspoon of vegetable oil to the frying pan and heat until the oil is hot and shimmering but not smoking. Season the skin side of the fish with sea salt flakes and place skin side down in the hot oil. If the fillets curl up, remove pan from heat for 10 seconds then flatten by pressing down with your fingertips. Return as soon as possible over the high heat. Fry for a minute or two so the skin is seared and golden but the flesh remains underdone. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to the pan then flip the fillets over onto the flesh side for five seconds then lift out onto a clean plate lined with kitchen paper.

5. If grilling, place the fish skin side up on a baking tray, drizzle a little olive oil and sea salt over the top then place under the hot grill until the skin is darkly browned but the flesh beneath is just underdone

6. Place a mound of cauliflower cous cous in the centre of each plate then arrange two fillets of mackerel on each. Scatter grapefruit segments over the fish and around the plate and add the avocado slices. Scatter some dill and chervil all around then serve at once.

Mackerel tartar with dill and horseradish

8 fillets very fresh mackerel, pin bones removed

2 pieces spring onion

Several stems of fresh leafy dill (to give 2 dstsp once chopped)

2 lemons

Creamed horseradish, about ½-1dstsp depending on strength

2 heads beetroot

Bunch of chives

Olive oil

1. Skin the fish, starting at the tapered tail end and working towards the wider head end. Clean the chopping board then cut the fish into small dice, transfer to a mixing bowl and chill.

2. Place the beetroots in a saucepan and cover with water, add a dash of wine vinegar (red or white) and a little salt. Simmer until cooked, about 45 minutes; you may need to top up the water. Once cooked, drain and allow to cool then peel away the beetroot skin. Halve each piece then cut into wedges and set aside for now.

3. To finish: finely cut the chives and transfer to a small container for now; chop the dill and transfer to a separate container. Using a microplane or very grater, zest one of the lemons into the mackerel. Halve this lemon and add the juice of one half. Add a little creamed horseradish, half the dill and half the chives then fold in, season lightly with a little salt and taste, adjusting the horseradish and seasoning as desired.

4. Transfer the beetroot wedges to a small bowl and add the rest of the chives, a little olive oil then toss to combine. Season with sea salt flakes.

5. Place a ring, pastry cutter or similar on the left hand side of the first serving plate and spoon some of the mackerel mixture into it; continue until all four plates are done. Now arrange the beetroot wedges in a curve or mound beside this. Scatter over the rest of the dill and zest the remaining lemon over the dish then serve at once with toast points.

Geoffrey Smeddle is the chef patron of The Peat Inn, by St Andrews, Fife, KY15 5LH 01334 840206 www.thepeatinn.co.uk