Fried red mullet with herbed pilaf

Fried red mullet with herbed pilaf

Barbunya tava

Steven Joyce

The soft and fragrant green herbs in this simple pilaf match perfectly with the hot, crisp-skinned red mullet. At Istanbul’s many fish restaurants, often you will be led up to the fish counter to choose a perfectly fresh fish for your supper – gleaming red mullet piled next to silver anchovies, horse mackerel, blue fish, sardines, bass and bream.



Quantity Ingredient
150g long-grain rice
40g butter
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 onion, finely chopped
salt, to taste
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
300ml hot vegetable stock or water
1 tablespoon dill, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 spring onions, sliced into thin rounds
1 teaspoon lemon juice, (or to taste)

Red mullet

Quantity Ingredient
1-2 whole red mullet per person, gutted and cleaned
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
2-4 tablespoons plain flour
freshly ground black pepper
lemon wedges, to serve


  1. Wash the rice in three changes of water, then soak in fresh, cold water for 30 minutes. Melt the butter in a large saucepan with a lid. Toast the pine nuts gently, stirring to prevent burning. Scatter a pinch of salt over the onions and mix together. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and soften in the butter for 5–6 minutes, stirring.
  2. Drain the rice and add it to the pan. Stir to coat the rice with the butter and allow to absorb for 1–2 minutes. Add a generous pinch of salt and the black pepper. Stir to combine and then add the hot stock. Bring to the boil and cover tightly with the lid. Reduce the heat as low as possible and simmer for 8–10 minutes, until the rice is just cooked.
  3. Remove the rice from the heat and add the herbs and spring onions. Stir once and then leave to stand for 5 minutes, with the lid on again.
  4. Meanwhile, to cook the fish, heat the oil for deep-frying until a cube of day-old bread sizzles and browns in 30 seconds. Put the flour on a plate and season it generously. Dredge the fish in the flour, ensuring the whole surface gets a dusting, and gently shake off any excess. Carefully lower the fish into the oil, in twos or one at a time. Deep-fry for 4–6 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. (To check the fish is cooked through, insert a sharp knife into the fish by the spine. If the fish is flaking and no longer translucent, it is cooked.) Serve the fish on top of a heap of the fluffy, herbed rice, with lemon wedges to squeeze over.
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