Red Mullet – in Italian Triglia, in French Rouget Barbet
It’s beautiful colour and mother of pearl skin with hues of red and orange make it very attractive fish to the eye. The taste is a joy to the palate, to my mind not very fishy, but difficult to describe. A little like shellfish, which is not surprising, as that is what it feeds on. When choosing bear in mind that it comes to maturity at 2 years. The high percent of oil gives it a more distinctive flavour and makes it a good partner for stronger flavours of herbs like thyme and garlic.
On a historic note: It is an antiquity and was once upon a time “one of the most famous and valued fish”. I have read that the Romans raised them in ponds, quite like our goldfish perhaps.
It is not always easy to buy the red mullet in Holland but worth it if you get the chance, however since they have been breeding in the waters around England, due to the climate change, it is becoming a sustainable fish, thus becoming more readily available on the fish market. See if you can find it this weekend, if not use mackerel, sardines, sea bream or even sea bass for the any red mullet recipes but change the cooking time depending on the thickness of the fish.
To my delight red mullet was on ice on the fish counter of my neighbourhood Marqt (not market), one of a new chain of Biological food shops in Holland. The fish from Marqt is supplied by Jan Van As, fish wholesaler from the Central Food Market on Jan van Galenstraat, where I used to go for most of my fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and poultry, on a regular basis. I remember collecting my fish from Van As in the 1980’s when he had his shop in a small side street of the Haarlemerstraat and the Brouwersgracht, then a really fishy street, now apartments. Those where the days!! Now he has a very modern complex on the Central market, fantastic.
It is best to prepare this fish in a simple way.
Red mullet is usually grilled or often roasted whole in the oven. In days gone by, the roasting in the oven was done in the brown paper bag the fish was wrapped in when you bought it. A bit like eating chips out of the newspaper, as I did as a child.
So nowadays we use greaseproof paper or aluminium foil instead to make a parcel (en Papillote) and bake the fish in the oven or wrap it in bacon or pancetta, or even wine leaves, which gives it a tangy taste, and then open roast it in the oven.
The cooking of the fish on the bone gives it a fuller flavour.
However nowadays the filets are often pan-fried, for easier eating and a better presentation. This can be difficult as the skin is very fragile and often sticks to the pan or breaks whilst frying. A tip from Cordon Bleu in Paris, is to place a round of greaseproof paper, cut to the size of the frying pan one is using, in the bottom of the pan, then add the oil and heat the pan well, before frying the filets for about 2 minutes on each side
Red Mullet with Artichoke Barigoule
Red Mullet with Fennel
Red Mullet with Baked Beetroot