nigel's top ten - salad of red mullet with lime and ginger

When I was young my mum used to make a fish curry which was served cold. it had a slightly vinegary pickled flavour and it was this dish, which I loved but is quite unusual, which I thought about when I read this red mullet salad recipe, which is also served cold and involves “pickling” the fish.

so, how did i get on?

I used red mullet which was an expensive option but really delicious – this mild, slightly sweet fish works well with the sharp herby dressing. it’s an incredibly flavoursome dish and Nigel’s suggestion about serving it with rye bread is spot on – this combination works so well.

the final verdict:

  • would i have tried this recipe if it hadn't been part of nigel’s top ten? maybe – i think it would be easy to skip past it
  • would i try this recipe again in the future? yes – i loved this dish!

salad of red mullet with lime and ginger (november 2005) serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a light lunch

2 filleted red mullet

50ml white wine vinegar

120ml (3-4 limes) lime juice

4 lime leaves

1 small carrot

1 small onion

a small clove garlic

1 small, seeded and very finely sliced fresh red chilli

palm sugar to taste

2 whole star anise

1 teaspoon of coriander seeds

8 white peppercorns

8 black peppercorns

80ml olive oil, plus a little more

fresh ginger a small knob, about 1cm long

parsley a little, quite finely chopped

to serve: triangles of rye bread

check the red mullet fillets for bones or stray scales. pour the wine vinegar and the lime juice into a stainless steel saucepan. add the lime leaves, scrunching them slightly to release their fragrance as you go. scrub the carrot and slice it as finely as paper – you should almost be able to see through it – then peel the onion and slice that similarly. drop them into the pan together with the garlic, peeled and squashed flat (you just want the merest whiff), the chilli, a teaspoon of palm sugar (though you may need to add some more later) and the star anise, coriander seed and white peppercorns.

bring the lot to the boil, add a good pinch of salt, 8 whole black peppercorns then pour in the olive oil and let the mixture simmer for a minute or two. you want the onion to have softened slightly. heat off, lid on, and leave to settle.

warm a little olive oil in a non-stick pan. season the red mullet fillets with salt and black pepper and lay them in the hot olive oil. let them colour on the skin side, then carefully turn them over and allow to colour on the other side. lift the fillets from the pan with a fish slice or palette knife and place on a shallow dish.

grate the ginger into the marinade and stir in the chopped parsley. taste it, adding a little more palm sugar if you think it needs it. the juices should have a little kick to them. spoon over the fish and leave to cool.

lift the red mullet on to plates and spoon over the vegetables and liquor. serve the fish salad with triangles of rye bread on the side, buttered if you must.