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XS FOOD & WINE; A fish to MULL OVER.

HERE'S a great dish that's top of the scale when it comes to taste. Grey mullet looks a bit like sea bass with its silver skin while the flesh is equally firm and delicately flavoured.

Try to choose a couple of large fish if you can and, ask your fishmonger to scale and fillet them for you.

If the fillets are really big, cut them in half to make them more manageable in the pan.

Grey mullet must also be very fresh. Its eyes should be bright and sparkly, its gills firm and a dark pink colour, and it should have no more than the faintest whiff of the sea.

All fresh fish should be in this condition. The only way to tell is to buy it whole, then you can ask the fishmonger to deal with it the way you want. If you are frugal, you should ask to keep the bones and head to make great stock.

This recipe needs a good quality vegetable stock - and making your own is incredibly easy. It is not as fancy as it sounds to have a tub of quality veggie stock in your fridge!

Just chop up an onion, a leek, some celery, carrots and a bulb of garlic. You'll need a teaspoon each of coriander seeds, and pink peppercorns, a star anise, two glasses of white wine and a big handful of fresh herbs.

Boil the vegetables and spices for eight minutes in three pints of water, add the herbs and simmer for three minutes.

Add the white wine and take off the heat. Leave to cool and marinade for 48 hours. Strain and store in tubs till you need it. What could be easier? And what could make a bigger difference to the taste of your food?

I've got nothing against stock cubes for big, robust dishes where the stock flavour won't dominate. But in delicate dishes like this butter sauce, it is essential you use the best you can.

If you let the butter sauce go cold, it will solidify. Don't panic! That is just the butter resetting and you can bring it back by gently reheating the sauce.

Now here's a word that will impress your friends. The butter will split, which means that it will float to the top. Boil 85ml (3fl oz) of double cream in a small saucepan and slowly add the hot butter sauce to the boiling cream, using the hand blender to whizz it together. There you have it. A delightful light sauce is yours.

MULLET, MUSSELS IN A BUTTER SAUCE

INGREDIENTS

Serves four

4 grey mullet fillets (each about 150g)

2 tablespoons olive oil

12 baby carrots

12 baby leeks

12 asparagus tips

12 small new potatoes

finely-grated zest of a lemon

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

500g (1lb) mussels

1 glass white wine

300ml (1/2 pint) good quality vegetable stock

100g (3oz) unsalted butter, diced and chilled

Maldon salt, white pepper

METHOD

PREPARE the mussels so that they are pretty much barnacle free then pull off the little hairy bit at the hinge of each shell.

Heat a large pan (with lid) and add the mussels, throw in the wine and clamp on the lid. Give the pan an occasional shake and, after 90 seconds, take off the lid. The mussels should have opened up. Drain, remove from their shells and keep them at hand.

Fill a large pan with water, add a generous pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Add the carrots, leeks and potatoes, return to the boil and reduce the heat to simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. In the last two minutes, add the asparagus tips and let them cook with the rest of the vegetables. Drain and keep warm.

Put the vegetable stock into a small saucepan on a high heat. Boil and reduce to about a quarter of its original volume.

Turn the heat to low and pop in all of the butter. Use a hand-blender (or put it in an electric mixer) and give it a good blitz until the butter has melted and the texture is light and frothy.

Then add the mussels, lemon juice and the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

In a heavy frying pan, heat the olive oil until it's nearly smoking. Add the grey mullet, skin side down, and leave for two to three minutes. Turn over for another two minutes.

Season in the pan with a sprinkle of lemon juice and a pinch or two of Maldon salt and pepper.

Divide the vegetables between four heated plates. Place the mullet in the centre and spoon over the frothy lemon butter sauce.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Nairn, Nick
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 23, 1999
Words:786
Previous Article:Tasty! Tasty!
Next Article:WINES OF THE TIMES.


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