Grilled red mullet with lemon and celery salad

The method below involves oven-grilling which is simpler and more realistic in the British winter months, but you can easily choose to barbecue your fish instead, as I do in the programme. Red mullets available in the UK are normally larger than those I cooked in Tunisia, so I have adapted the recipe accordingly. If you manage to find small red mullets or choose to use sardines instead (which are also great!), allow 2-3 per portion and reduce the cooking time substantially.


Serving size


4 red mullets, gutted and descaled, each weighing about 340g after cleaning
12g in total of fresh bay leaves, rosemary and thyme
2 tsp cumin seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle
2 tbsp olive oil 

Lemon and celery salad:
4 pale green pointy peppers, or 1 normal green pepper (140g gross)
3½ tbsp olive oil 
1 lemon, peeled, de-seeded and cut into 1cm dice (35g net)
3 light and tender celery stalks, cut into 1cm dice (120g net)
10g tender celery leaves, finely chopped
15g parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
30g black wrinkly olives, pitted
½ tsp dried red chilli flakes 
1 tsp sumac 


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.

  2. Start with the salad. Put the green peppers in an ovenproof tray, drizzle with ½ a tablespoon of the oil and smear all over, roast in the oven for 10 minutes or until the skin has blistered and the flesh is soft (or 30-40 minutes if using a normal pepper). Remove from the oven and place the peppers in a bowl covered with cling film. Once cool enough to handle, peel, cut into 1 centimeter dice and place in a large bowl. Add the remaining olive oil, the lemon, celery and leaves, parsley, garlic, olives, chilli flakes and ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir well and set aside.

  3. Score the red mullet 2-3 times on each side in parallel lines at a 45 degree angle to the fish. Slice the bay leaves into fine strips and stuff into the incisions, followed by each of the other herbs. Place the fish on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. In a small bowl mix together the cumin, olive oil and 1½ teaspoons of salt. Drizzle or brush this over the fish.

  4. Turn the grill onto high. Once hot, place the fish underneath and cook for about 6 minutes on each side. Check that the flesh is firm and cooked through, then remove from the oven.

  5. Serve the fish with the salad alongside it, sprinkling the salad with sumac as you serve.