Seafood, to my mind, is the original fast food. It cooks in minutes and given the number of species fished off our coast, there’s something for all tastes: delicate and flaky, dense and meaty, rich and oily. One of my favourites is red mullet, a fish I normally associate with warmer climes but which can be caught off our southern coast.
It’s a white fish but it will stand up to punchy flavours. I’ve cooked it here with rosemary, chorizo and clams and the resulting brothy sauce was so good we slurped it from our bowls. With spoons, we’re not heathens.
I like to cook red mullet on the bone for added flavour. It is very easy to fillet once cooked; it doesn’t have lots of annoying, hairy little bones. The skin is edible and delicious but ask your fishmonger to scale the fish and snip off the fins. It’s often cooked whole, with the liver considered a delicacy, but I bought mine gutted. Your call.
Although I’ve used clams here you can use other shellfish – mussels and cockles would work equally well. Like mussels, clams need to breathe: store them in a single layer in the bottom of the fridge, loosely covered with damp kitchen paper and ideally, use within 24 hours.
They can be gritty: if they haven’t been purified pre-sale, soak them just before cooking in very salty water for 20 minutes, then rinse in fresh water. Use 35g of sea salt per litre of water. Discard any that are damaged or which don’t open when you tap them.
Soaking apart, you can have this on the table in less than half an hour. A crusty baguette to soak up the sauce is highly recommended.
Red Mullet with Clams and Chorizo
1 red mullet
6 small sprigs of rosemary
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
50g spicy chorizo, diced small + 1 tsp olive oil
3 spring onions, sliced fairly finely
A small punnet of cherry tomatoes (around 20), halved
About 40 clams, 500g (you can halve this if you’re not greedy)
125ml white wine
A handful of parsley, chopped
Heat the oven to 200C/180 fan/400F/ Gas Mark 6.
Take the prepared red mullet (please read the intro, ditto for the clams) and with a sharp knife, slash it three times on each side down to the bone. Using some of the oil, slick the rosemary sprigs so they don’t burn and tuck one into each slash.
Brush the fish with a more little oil and season with pepper and a very little salt. Place in a lightly oiled roasting tin and cook in the oven for 12-15 minutes.
Put a large, heavy-bottomed pot on a medium-high heat, add the teaspoon of oil and fry the chorizo until its orangey oils run. Add the spring onions, tomatoes, clams and white wine, clamp on a lid and cook for 2 or 3 minutes or until the clams have opened fully. Discard any that don’t open. Stir in the parsley and keep warm at the back of the stove.
When the fish is done, fillet it by running a knife down the back/top of the fish and using a palette knife or spatula to lift off the top fillet. Pull out the backbone to reveal the bottom fillet. Check for any stray bones; they’re big, so if there are any, they’re hard to miss.
Divide the clams and their sauce between two bowls and lay the fish on top. Eat straight away (discarding the rosemary) with crusty bread for dunking.