Coal cooked beetroot with mackerel, tamarind and scotch bonnet

Do you need a good reason to fire up the barbecue during winter? This is it. Cooking the beetroots whole in the coals means they take on lots of smoke flavour.

Pit — Coal cooked beetroot with mackerel, tamarind and scotch bonnet
Beetroot with Mackerel, Tamarind and Scotch Bonnet

The earthiness of the beetroot and the oily richness of the fish is enlivened by a sharp, sweet and hot dressing made from tamarind, fish sauce and fragrant scotch bonnet chilli. There’s also a very pleasing temperature contrast going on with the hot beets and cold yoghurt. This wants some bread or potatoes on the side, to swipe through the neon pink ‘sauce’ that remains on the plate. 

Coal Cooked Beetroot with Mackerel, Tamarind and Scotch Bonnet


Serves 4 

2 mackerel, filleted and annoying bones removed (the fishmonger will do this for you) 

100g (ish) of natural yoghurt 

6 whole beetroots, with leaves if possible 

2 tablespoons fish sauce 

3 tablespoons tamarind puree 

2 teaspoons caster sugar 

½ – 1 whole scotch bonnet chilli, deseeded (if you like!) and very finely chopped 

3 tablespoons lime juice

Oil for cooking 

Light some coals in the bottom of the barbecue and let the flames die down and the coals turn to hot embers. 

Trim the leaves off the beetroot (keep them for later) and put the beetroots on the coals, so that some coals are touching them. Close the vents about halfway down and shut the lid. Cooking time will depend on the size of the beetroots, but they’ll probably take 45 minutes to an hour, and you’ll need to turn them every 10 minutes or so, to make sure they cook evenly. 

Meanwhile, combine the fish sauce, tamarind puree, caster sugar, scotch bonnet chilli and lime juice. Mix well and set aside. 

Rub the mackerel fillets with oil and season with salt. Place inside a fish cage (if you like – we find it easier). 

Once the beetroots are cooked, remove them from the coals and set them aside while you cook the mackerel. 

You will need to add a few more coals, so get those going – the barbecue needs to be hot to cook the fish. Once it’s ready, cook the mackerel skin side down for a couple of minutes until crisp, then turn over just to finish cooking through – probably another minute or two.  

Blanch the beet leaves for a minute in boiling water, then drain. 

To serve, spread the yoghurt over 4 plates, then top with sliced beets, beet leaves, the mackerel and plenty of tamarind dressing. Serve immediately!