It was a spontaneous buy. I stopped off at the local fishmonger’s to buy some salmon and prawns and saw fillets of red mullet. I remembered it’s one of Rick Stein’s favourite fish and so decided to get some.
I’ve cooked red mullet before, but long ago, and wasn’t sure what to do with it to make something a little special for a Saturday evening, so it made sense to turn to the man himself – and thus I found a recipe in Rick Stein’s From Venice to Istanbul.
Red mullet is common in the Mediterranean (and also the North Atlantic and Black Sea) but Rick talks of the Cornish ones being wonderful. They have quite a strong flavour and thus can take strong accompaniments. I’ve had it Chinese style but this recipe I chose of Rick’s is Mediterranean and labelled Greek in his book. The oranges give it a lovely freshness, which is wonderful with the red mullet, and there’s a nice little kick from the pinch of dried chilli flakes.
I changed the recipe quantities slightly as I was cooking for one and not four. I didn’t have oranges so used tangerines. When I added their juice and zest, I decided a little more liquid was needed, so splashed in some of the white wine I was drinking, à la Keith Floyd, while I cooked!
Red Mullet with Orange, Capers & Pine Nuts – Serves 1
- 2 small red mullet fillets
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- a little semola (semolina flour) for coating
- extra virgin olive oil
- 2 small oranges or tangerines: zest and juice of one; the other peeled and thinly sliced
- a little white wine
- 1 teaspoon capers
- 1 heaped teaspoon pine nuts, toasted
- pinch chilli flakes
- about 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Have everything measured and ready before you start as once you begin cooking, it’s almost an instant meal! Put a plate in a low oven. You want to transfer the cooked fish to a warm plate or it will quickly go cold.
If the red mullet isn’t already filleted, ask you fishmonger to do it for you. Rick fries his fish whole (scaled and gutted), which is another option if you prefer.
Rick dusts the fish with semolina and I had some semola – semolina flour – which I buy from my local Italian deli to make focaccia. If you don’t have either, just use ordinary plain flour.
Season the fish with some salt and pepper and then lay it in some semola on a plate and coat both sides. This gives the fish a slightly crispy crust when cooked, which is really good. Heat a little oil in a pan. Extra virgin olive oil does cope with high temperatures, contrary to what some people say – see my review of an olive oil workshop: click here.
Put skin side down in the hot oil and cook for a couple of minutes until you see the edges start to look cooked through. Turn over and cook for another couple of minutes. My fillets were quite small and larger ones, and especially whole fish, may take longer.
Transfer the cooked fish to the warm plate. Tip the orange juice and zest in and stir round to deglaze the pan and capture all the fish juices. It was at this point I felt it needed more liquid so I added a little white wine. Then add the orange slices, capers, pine nuts, chilli flakes and parsley. I almost forgot the parsley so it went in a few seconds later than the rest!
It barely needs cooking. It’s just about mixing it all together. Spoon the sauce over the fish.
I served mine with some simple boiled new potatoes and some tenderstem broccoli with some olive oil and lemon juice drizzled over the top.
It was a lovely meal. The mullet has quite a strong flavour but in a pleasant way and I think it almost needs an equally strong accompaniment. The strong flavour is due to its high fat content and so it’s rich in Omega-3 and thus good for you too. I really liked it and will buy it again. Despite the grey sky and heavy rain outside on this late July evening, it did bring a welcome touch of summer to my meal.