Seared red mullet with à la Grecque vegetables & basmati pilaf
- Preparation and cooking time
- A challenge
- Serves 4
Gordon Ramsay's recipe is a real spring treat and great for practising your technique for preparing fish.
- 4 red mullet about 300g each, ungutted, scaled (see step by step)
- 2large banana shallots or 4 smaller ones
- 2 fat garlic cloves
- 2 carrots
- 1 fennel bulb
- about olive oil
- good pinch saffron strands
- 3 cardamom pods
- 1 bay leaf
- 250g cherry tomato , halved
- 100ml balsamic vinegar
- large handful fresh coriander , roughly chopped
For the pilaf
- 250g basmati rice
- 1 orange , grated zest
- 1 lemon , grated zest
- 1 lime , grated zest
- 1 tsp fenugreek seed , crushed
- ½ tsp coriander seeds , crushed
- ½ tsp fennel seeds , crushed
- 2 cardamom pods , crushed
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 star anise
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion , sliced
- 150ml dry white wine
- 450ml fish stock (made with the bones or use a good-quality ready made stock)
- STEP 1
Using a very sharp filleting knife, make a cut at the head on a slant, then turn the fish and cut under the dorsal (top) fin.
- STEP 2
Press the fish down firmly with one hand, bending it slightly along the back so that the flesh is taut. Then slide the knife in at the top of the backbone.
- STEP 3
Cut down against the rib cage at a downward slant. Letting the knife do the work, push the tip against the centre of the bone, working your way down to the tail. Turn the fish over and repeat on the other side.
- STEP 4
Trim the fillets neatly. Remove the pin bones using your fingernails or tweezers. In the restaurant kitchen, we use a straight-sided potato peeler, hooking the bone head and twisting it out. After filleting and pin-boning, pat dry (do not rinse or you’ll lose flavour).
- STEP 5
Thinly slice the shallots, garlic and carrots. Quarter and core the fennel then slice the fennel quarters as thinly as you can – use a mandolin, if possible.
- STEP 6
Heat 3 tbsp oil in a sauté frying pan and fry the vegetables together for 5 mins with the saffron, cardamom and bay leaf.
- STEP 7
Add 2 tbsp oil and continue cooking for 5 mins. Season well, remove from the heat and stir in the tomatoes, vinegar, 3 tbsp oil, and coriander.
- STEP 8
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a non-stick frying pan and, when hot, lay in the fillets, skin-side down. Season and cook for 2 mins, then carefully turn and cook for 1-2 mins – but no more, the flesh should be slightly undercooked. Remove from the heat.
- STEP 9
Tip half the vegetables into a shallow dish, lay the fillets on top, then cover with the remaining vegetables.
- STEP 10
Leave to marinate for 10 mins before serving warm. Prepare up to this point up to 1 day ahead and keep in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving.
- STEP 11
Soak the rice in cold water for 5 mins, then drain well and tip into a bowl. Mix in the grated zests. Add all the spices. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Make a cartouche (see tip below).
- STEP 12
Heat oil in an ovenproof casserole, then sauté onion for 5 mins. Add rice and wine, boil until evaporated, then add the stock. Bring to the boil.
- STEP 13
Top with the cartouche and a well-fitting lid. Bake for 20 mins, then take out of the oven, uncover, fork the grains, re-cover. Leave to stand for 5 mins, then serve.
CHOOSING THE BEST FISH
Look for very bright red gills (under the flaps by the eyes) and eyes that are still prominent, bright and not sunken. The skin should be shiny and moist and smell fresh.
SCALING AND FILLETING
Red mullet has a lot of scales, but they are very soft and can be pulled off with your fingertips. Do this into a plastic bag. It is easier to fillet a fish that still has its guts because this makes the body firmer. To keep the fish steady on the board as you work, you can sit it on a clean J-cloth. Look out for specialist filleting knives – the blade should be really flexible (see left) which helps getting into tricky corners. Make sure you sharpen it regularly.
USE THE BONES FOR FISH STOCK
Red mullet bones make delicious stock, so save the bones, but gut the fish after filleting and remove the eyes from the head. The bones freeze well if you want to make stock later.
COOK THE PERFECT RICE
Soaking the rice makes the grains lighter and quicker to cook. Covering the rice with a cartouche (see below), helps to seal in the steam during cooking and keeps it moist. Top the pan with a well-fitting lid, too. Leave the rice to rest for at least 5 mins after baking make it fluffy.
MAKING A CARTOUCHE
Take some greaseproof paper, large enough to cover the pan. Fold into quarters, then fold twice again to make a pointed triangle. Place the point at the centre of the pan base, measure where the edge of the pan comes to and tear to fit. Unfold to reveal a circle just the right size.