Niall Sabongi’s ultimate barbecued fish with sauce vierge and Matilda dressing

Barbecued whole fish with Matilda dressing
Serves: 2
Course: Main Course
Cooking Time: 0 hr 30 mins


  • 2 whole fish, mackerel or red mullet are good choices
  • 2 tsp rapeseed oil
  • Sea salt, for seasoning
  • Boiled baby potatoes and salad, to serve
  • For the sauce vierge:
  • 100g cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp small capers
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 100ml rapeseed oil
  • Handful torn basil leaves and chopped chives
  • 1 tbsp roasted coriander seeds (a lovely add in, but can be omitted)
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • Matilda dressing:
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of dry chilli
  • 6 -10 tbsp rapeseed oil, to loosen

The Matilda dressing can be used as both a rub inside the cavity of the fish before cooking or, if you add extra oil, it makes a great after cooking dressing. It is named after my Egyptian grandmother. In Egypt, we love to eat fish and this simple dressing goes with all kinds of fish and adds a punchy sharp contrast to this mackerel.

1. Fire up your barbeque and while it is heating, combine all the ingredients for the sauce vierge and Matilda dressing. For the sauce vierge mix everything together in a bowl. For the Matila dressing, add all the dry ingredients to a mortar and pestle and give it a good bash, then add the lemon and slowly drizzle in the oil and stir till it all comes together.

2. When the coals are white, oil your fish with rapeseed oil - but be very sparing - and season generously with high quality sea salt.

3. Place your fish on the grill in one smooth movement, and this is the important part: leave it alone, don’t move the fish. As tempted as you might be, it needs time to cook, so consider picking up a glass of wine and having a sip instead.

4. After approximately four minutes, your fish should be ready to turn and not sticking to the grill. You can test that it is not stuck by giving it little lift with your thumb or a spoon. This will give you a good indication that your fish is ready to turn and moving freely.

5. Using a spatula, flip your fish in one swift movement. The skin should be charred and crispy, and sitting on the fish, not the grill.

6. Again, leave the fish to cook on the other side for four minutes.

7. Remove and place directly onto a serving dish. Add a knob of butter and allow it to melt on top. Top with the sauce vierge and a drizzle of the dressing. To this you could also add a dollop of yoghurt seasoned with lemon, mint and grated garlic.