This was one of those meals that was thrown together in 20 minutes and ended up being really, really good. I absolutely love fish; growing up by the coast in the tropics meant we had fish or seafood at least once a day in some form or another. It really frustrates me that it’s so difficult to find decent fish cheaply in the UK, an ISLAND surrounded by water on all sides. There are no fishmongers (apart from in Sainsbury’s) anywhere near me, although the weekly farmer’s market does have a wonderful fish stall. Since I’m on rant mode, there is also no butcher near me. There was when we moved in, and within a few weeks it had closed down. So the only place I can buy meat and fish is Sainsbury’s or, when I’m organised enough, at the farmer’s market. I suppose we should be shopping like that anyway – once a week, buy some fish and a joint big enough to last the week and get creative. But I’m never that organised. So I feel very hard done by and the upshot of all this is I don’t eat fish anywhere near as much as I’d like. I usually manage two or three meals a week or so – using salmon from a supermarket and tinned fish – but I’d really like to up it – I mean I really love fish! To try and remedy this sad state of affairs, I’ve signed up to receive a fish box each month from Kent Veg Box. The fish are supplied by a local Kent fishmonger and sourced off the coast of Kent where possible.
Having moaned about the decline of traditional high street shops in London generally, in Chiswick, where my grandparents have lived for 60 years, there is a really good fishmonger, which my grandparents have been using for 20 years. I was in Chiswick last week, so on the way home I popped in. I was really impressed by the range and quality of the fish (considering it was 4.45 in the evening and they were closing in 45 minutes!) and how careful they are on the sustainability front. Most of the fish is line caught, and it’s clearly labelled. I was there to buy mackerel but as they’d sold out, the red mullets caught my eye. They’re a beautiful bright red fish, and although there seems to be conflicting information about it, seem to be a fairly sustainable option as long as they’re not too immature (at least 16cm in length) and you buy fish caught off the shores of the UK. Apparently this fish does not keep well (hence why the supermarkets never stock it) so it should be eaten on the day it is bought.
This is a very simple recipe, perfect for a midweek dinner. Although the bones are fairly easy to spot, you do have to be careful. You can ask the fishmonger to fillet them if you’re worried, but I love eating whole fish or fish steaks – it’s what I grew up eating! – so I’m less confident about how long to cook it for. If you can’t find red mullet, you can use any white fish. Check the MCS Good Fish Guide to make sure it’s a good choice. The grilled red pepper in the salad lends a smoky flavour to the dish and the lemon pieces shock the tastebuds with its occasional sourness.
Ingredients. Serves two.
- 6 small red mullet or 4 larger ones
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil or melted ghee
- 2 red, yellow or orange peppers, halved with seeds and pith removed. I find the large bell peppers best as the long pointy ones have quite thin flesh and can easily burn under the grill.
- 1 head of kale, finely sliced
- 1/2 lemon, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into small pieces.
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Large handful of parsley, chopped
- Handful of chives, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
Method. Preparation and cooking time: 20 minutes
- Make two deep slashes on each side of the fish. Rub the fish with the salt, pepper and olive oil, making sure to get into the slashes and the insides of the fish. Be generous with the seasoning. Set aside for now.
- Preheat the grill to high, line a grill tray with baking paper or foil and place the red pepper halves on a rack over the grill tray. Place under the grill and cook until the skin has blackened all over, about 10 minutes. It really needs to be black all over, otherwise the skin won’t come off easily. Once blackened enough, place the peppers in a paper bag and fold over the top, or in a bowl and covered with a plate or clingfilm. The idea is to allow steam to build up, which will prise the skin away from the peppers. Leave while you get on with the rest of the meal. Don’t turn off the grill as you’ll be using it again for the fish.
- Meanwhile, place the kale in a saucepan with an inch or so of boiling water, cover with a lid, and leave to steam for about 10 minutes. Keep checking to make sure the water hasn’t boiled dry. Drain, then return to the saucepan with a lid on to keep warm.
- Peel the peppers, chop into small pieces and place in a large bowl with the lemon pieces, olive oil, parsley and chives. Mix everything together.
- Place the fish under the grill and grill for about 4 minutes on each side for small fish, 6 minutes for large fish. Check it’s cooked through to the bone. Make sure you’re not doing anything else while this is happening, or set a timer, as you want to keep a close eye to make sure you don’t overcook it.
- Finally, dump the warm kale into the large bowl with the rest of the salad, give a final toss together and serve everything immediately.