This recipe from Michelin-starred Gascon chef, Pascal Aussignac, is one of three taken from his book, Cuisinier Gascon.
Red mullet or rougets are landed along the coastlines of Gascony and are delicious.
I serve them with quinoa, a grain which comes from South America. Pronounced "keen-wah", it is known as the "super grain of the Incas" because it is so healthy. It is similar in texture to millet, and doesn't need much cooking.
I have also added mussels and baby squid to my risotto, so this is a truly great fishy treat of a dish.
For the red mullet
- 4 medium red mullets, filleted
- 1kg fresh mussels, washed and de-bearded
- 4tbs olive oil
- 100ml dry white wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 large fennel bulb
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2tbs chopped fresh dill
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Knob of butter
For the quinoa risotto
- 50g baby squid (optional)
- 2tbs olive oil
- Good pinch of Espelette pepper (optional)
- 120g quinoa
- 1 shallot, chopped
- ½ tsp saffron (or spigol, see below)
- 1 small chorizo sausage, finely chopped
Check the mullets for pin bones and remove them with your fingertips. Trim the edges to neaten the fillets. Set aside in the fridge.
Cook the mussels. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan and, when hot, tip in the prepared mussels. Pour in the wine, add the bay leaves and thyme and cover with a lid. Cook on a medium heat for about five minutes then uncover. The mussels should all have opened. Those that haven't should be discarded. Strain off the cooking liquor into a bowl through a fine sieve.
Cool the mussels and remove them all from the shells. Set aside.
Prepare the fennel. Halve lengthways, cut out the base core and slice thinly. Place in a bowl with two tablespoons of oil, the lemon juice and half the dill. Season and allow to marinate.
If using, wash the squid, cut into small dice, and marinate in one tablespoon of oil with a pinch of Espelette pepper.
Now cook the quinoa. Using a large pan, heat the remaining oil and stir in the quinoa and shallot. Cook for two to three minutes then add the saffron (or spigol) and cook another minute or so. Pour in the mussel liquor, stir and bring to the boil, then cover and turn the heat down. Cook for about 10 minutes, then uncover, stir in the diced squid, chopped chorizo and remaining dill. Season and keep warm.
Finally, cook the mullet fillets. Heat the last of the oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook the fillets, skin-side down. They should take no more than two to three minutes.
Stir in the butter and heat until it sizzles and browns the fish. Remove from the heat. Toss the mussels into the pan and cook on a high heat until browned.
Serve the fish with the quinoa risotto, mussels and fennel.
Cuisinier Gascon, published by Absolute Press, £25. ISBN 978-1-906650-20-9