Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Grilled and roasted red mullet with pancetta and thyme

Finally, finally back to Jamie. It is one of those weeks, jammed full of tedious meetings and flurries of paperwork, that I read and promptly forget the content of. There are weeks like that. Luckily there's nothing on television so I don't feel I'm missing out too much when the papers come home with me. Anyway yesterday Simon managed to use his lunch break to go to the fishmonger so we were lucky enough to be able to get red mullet. I don't know if I'd had red mullet before - I don't remember, but then I've had all sorts of fish in France that I didn't know the names for at the time, so I might have had. In any case I certainly never cooked it before so it felt more exciting than the usual suspects (salmon being most frequently called upon, mainly out of convenience). The only thing was that I was rushing around a lot yesterday and so hardly had time to brief Simon on what fish to buy. He returned from the fishmonger and announced he had found 2 red mullet, scaled, cleaned and gutted, but headless. I was disappointed because I liked the aesthetics of the head-on red mullet gleaming out of Jamie's photo; when it comes to food photos, I can be a bit superficial. I got over it quickly enough when we got home and unwrapped the fish - they looked pearly pink and beautiful, even without their heads. And losing the heads does make eating them feel a bit less visceral, somehow.

This is another simple recipe, which is good for those nights when you hurry home from work late under yet another raincloud and can't be bothered with fancy cooking. Basically, rub each fish with olive oil and season them, inside and out; stuff with lemon slices and sprigs of thyme or marjoram. Griddle on each side for 1 minute, remove to a chopping board, wrap each fish in two slices of pancetta and top with an anchovy fillet, then roast, topped with extra herbs, until cooked.

I had no idea how this was going to taste. I was hoping that the herbs, combined with lemon, pancetta and anchovy would make the dullest fish taste good. I was right, except that red mullet isn't dull at all - it had an amazing flavour. I really enjoyed this; it was incredibly tasty and, although headless, still exquisitely pink and pretty. I ate it almost drooling, and the bones for once didn't bother me, because the fish was so good. I can't believe I waited 31 years to try red mullet and I will definitely try it again, soon. Yum.

I've missed Jamie's recipes over the last week. The problem is simply finding an opportunity to locate ingredients and/or to find time to, for example, make pasta for dinner. If we get home by 6, it's fine. Any later and we're eating the wallpaper. Well, not literally, because we don't have wallpaper, but I have never been one to allow literality to cramp my style. The problem is I'm already craving red mullet again, but next I need to track down some John Dory, or a whole salmon small enough to feed two. Not to mention attend another series of meetings and read some more ozone-layer killing stacks of papers.


annauk said...

mullet is an amazing tasting fish Katherine, I agree wholeheartedly!
It is the fish that I grew up on. I remember Mom frying whole mullet in olive oil and then my brother and I sneaking into the kitchen and pinching off the cripsy tails to eat as a treat, yum, delicious!!!

Margaret said...

I have often been tempted to buy mullet it is so pretty - I too wouldn't serve with the head on!!
Pleased to read about this particular fish.

Freya said...

I would leave the head on myself, just because I feel bad about cutting it off! The fish looks beautiful though, head on or off!

Kathryn said...

Anna, I am definitely going to buy it more often as it looks pretty and it tastes great. Margaret, try it - it was a flavour revelation. And thanks for commenting. Freya, I know what you mean... the fishmonger cut it off, though.

Am annoyed because work is giving me no time to blog - too many evenings taken up with work as well as the day...

Kathryn x

Jayne said...

Kathryn - I had red mullet for the first time last year and it was absolutely delicious. I'm afraid I'm a bit of a wuss though and I'd go for head off every time!
Your red mullet looks fabulous, yummy.

ros said...

I think I'd leave the head on as it's really cool whe you can lift the whole skeleton out of your fish in one piece! Yes, I'm weird like that.

I'm going to look out for mullet as I've never cooked it myself. I've had it in restaurants and loved it.

Gemma said...

I've had too many of 'those' weeks lately! I have only had red mullet once and loved it so this definitely looks like one to try. For some unknown reason I still haven't bought this book but you are convincing me that it is a necessary purchase!

Kathryn said...

Jayne and Ros, red mullet wasn't initially easy to find - it isn't a given that it will be in the fishmongers, unlike other fish. But it was worth the hunt!

Gemma, go on, you know you want to.

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