Wednesday, 21 March 2012


I went fishing again on Monday; a pastime that has the ability to make me feel uniquely foolish. In spite of this – or maybe even because of it – I came home with a couple of beauties!

The grey mullet looks like a softy. Seaweed eating, with big rubbery lips, and the nice but dim expression of a clodhopping puppy, it’s difficult to imagine a more benign fish. They are beautifully striped along the length of the body, and look a bit like a divvy version of the American striped bass.

Here in France they have a reputation for being terrible to eat, as they are the fish one sees mooching around the port eating chips and sewage pipe sea lettuce. Fair enough, I don’t think I’d eat one of them either, but my fish were caught, with a bit of bread on a hook, on an inlet, just 100 yards from the open sea. The first was beautiful, with a flavour and texture very similar to bass. Raw, I could taste the seaweed diet, but once cooked it was delicate, with deep white flesh, and really superb. We’ll have the other one tonight! Yum! It will be interesting to see if there is a disintegration in quality of the flavour between the first, eaten before rigor mortis even had chance to set in, and the second, eaten 2 days later, after the rigour has waned (I hope. As I write it’s still stiff – is that bad?). It’s still spanking fresh by the standards of shop-bought fish. I’m sure fish mongers often deliberately store fish before sale. Is this because they develop flavour, like beef? I’m afraid it’s a bit of a mystery to me...

Of course I didn’t actually catch them. Have you not been paying attention? I stood by the water, not knowing what I was doing, doubtless with a particularly amusing choice of bait for the situation. A man who’d been set up nearby came over and offered me a share of his catch – his wife would moan if he came back with too much! Haha! What a nice man. (He must have had his eye on me. Did he take pity because I looked like a tool?) I sheepishly but gratefully accepted. He told me about the bread as bait, and that the mullet puts up a spiffing fight, making the fishing a crack-a-laugh! Combined with their dim-witted appearance, this made me feel a bit sad to be bopping it on the head, slicing through its gills to drain the blood before taking it home in a carrier bag. Not sad enough to not do it, I might add, but still...

I can't not make cevice when I get a bit of fish as fresh as this - lemon, cumin, garlic, chillies, shallots and corriander. I've not tried it with grey mullet before: it worked a treat!

Main course was the thick end of the fillet fried in some bacon fat and served with some simple greens. Briefly boiled brouttes*, dressed with some warm olive oil and softened garlic. Clean and tasty - a top way to welcome the beginnings of spring. 

Two days later: no noticeable deterioration in flavour.

Dot said she fancied ginger. It turns out a ginger mullet can be a winner! A few slivers of chilli, garlic and shallots to acompany the ginger, sandwiched between the fish, which was steamed for maybe five minutes. Plonked on top of some moroccan-style chick peas with olive oil and cumin. We had a little sweet and sour dressing made from white vinegar, sweet soy, a drop of nam pla (fish sauce), a scattering of the aromatics that stuffed the mullet, plus some herbs for freshness - mint, basil and corriander.

All of these dishes would be great with bass, but honestly I thought mullet was at least as good.

I might go fishing more often!!

* Young shoots of cabbage. They are pleasantly similar to purple sprouting brocolli. Yum!