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.
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
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Serve the fish with the salad alongside it, sprinkling the salad with sumac as you serve.