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Recipe / Smoked mackerel: creating gold from smoke

I will be honest. This dish is not something that you can easily replicate at home unless you have a proper smoker.

In August 2017, I was in Belgrade and had the pleasure to be hosted for lunch by Pera, a Serbian movie producer, on his boat house on the Sava river banks.

Pera is a very nice man, probably a bit eccentric, but with a special spark in his eyes and a curious smile.

He has a BEAUTIFUL smoker: a cubic shaped oven made out of bricks and concrete with small iron bars and hooks inside to hang fish or meat. As the smoking process does not require direct heat, the secret is all in the half cylinder at the bottom part of the cube functioning as air-gate for the smoke.

We collected few branches around, dried by the rays of the Belgrade summer, lit them on fire, placed on the ground- covered by the half cylinder – little by little to adjust the strengths of the fire and the intensity of the smoke.

The process of ‘creating gold from smoke’ takes a bit more than two hours (for a mackerel of 300-400 gr), enough time to swim in the relatively quiet waters of Sava, drink few glasses of rakija and grow the impatience to enjoy the strong smoked flavor of the fish and its juicy meat.


  • Fresh mackerels (300-400 gr each): the number depends on the appetite of your guests

  • Dried branches

  • Plum rakija (Serbian brandy): no, this does not go on the fish (but will make the meal better!)

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