Red Mullet with
Prawn Head Oil & Blood Orange
BY NICK MACMAHON | 27 JANUARY 2020
Compared to mild white fish like sea bass or bream, red mullet has quite a strong flavour. Red mullets have a diet consisting mostly of small crustaceans and molluscs, which means that they can often taste a bit like shellfish, which is not a bad thing —unless you don’t like shellfish.
Prawn heads and shells pack a lot of flavour and if you’ve got the time, you can use them to make stock or flavoured oil. Personally, I prefer to make a prawn head oil to store in the fridge for a couple of weeks. If I am making a stock, I much prefer to use that fresh. Prawn stock is very pungent and when stored in the freezer, the flavour can sometimes leach out into other foods in your freezer. Ice cubes with a hint of prawn flavour? No thanks.
The prawn head oil is full of flavour and when combined with the sweet but tart flavour of blood orange juice, it makes an incredibly delicious dressing.
2 Red Mullets per person
100g prawn heads and shells
250ml neutral oil, grapeseed or vegetable
2 tbs blood orange juice, about half an orange
1 small onion, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely diced
2 tsp tomato paste
To make the prawn head oil; add the prawn heads and shells to a pot with a couple tablespoons of the oil. Cook on a low temperature until the shells are browned and crispy. Add in the chopped onion, carrots, a pinch of salt and the tomato paste, cook for a couple of minutes and then add the rest of the oil. Add 200mls of water and keep at a simmer. The water helps to break down the ingredients and release the flavours. After about an hour of simmering, the water will have evaporated, leaving just the oil. You can tell when the water has all evaporated as the vegetables and shells will begin to fry and start browning. At this point, remove from heat and strain into a bowl. You can then strain it further through muslin if you want to remove all the smaller particles, but it isn’t totally necessary.
For the red mullet, remove the fillets from the fish, or ask your fishmonger to do it for you. Liberally salt each side of the fillets and leave them to sit, uncovered, in the fridge for 30 minutes. Dab with a paper towel to remove all the excess moisture and then place on a baking sheet. Heat your oven to 220c on the grill setting. Place the baking sheet directly under the grill and cook for 7 minutes. Check after 5 to make sure they aren’t burning. The skin should have bubbled up and started to get crispy and the flesh should be cooked through.
To make the dressing, combine 2 tablespoons of the prawn head oil with 2 tablespoons of blood orange juice and a pinch of salt. Mix well to emulsify. Place the fish on a serving plate and drizzle with the dressing and finish with a big grind of black pepper.