Spiced red mullet with a fennel, preserved lemon and rocket salad.

My flatmate and I have a wonderful cleaner who comes in occasionally to make sure we aren’t living in a mouse-infested cesspit. You see, I’m incredibly untidy by nature… although, I like to think I’m not an awful person to live with because most of my mess is contained in a 10m x 10m pit of yesterday’s coffee and dirty clothes that I call my room. However, once a week when Lena, the cleaner, has just left and the kitchen is looking shiny and new again, a slightly psychotic wave of mischievousness comes over me and I have an overwhelming urge to make mess. My mother noticed a similar pattern when I lived at home. Whenever the cleaner had just come I wanted to jump straight on to my freshly made bed and make it as untidy as possible.  Having been away for a lot of the summer, today was the first time I’d seen Lena in quite a while and so I thought what better to do then go to the fishmonger and not only make a mess but an incredibly smelly one too! With an evil spring in my step I set off for the shops thinking of clams and crusty bread. However, when I arrived there was no one there. After a few minutes, a man came out to help me. I asked if he had any clams, he replied “no clams”. “Swordfish?” “No swordfish”. “Octopus?” “Yes, octopus, but not for you”, which I thought rather rude. Eventually he pointed to some red mullet and determined not to let the flat smell clean for the rest of the day I set off home with two fish. As ever, this recipe takes almost no time at all, probably about half an hour including the time it takes for you to warm up your oven. While we’re on the subject of ovens, I used one for this recipe because I don’t have a BBQ at the moment and I really wanted to make fish but if you do have one whack these guys on there with extra salt so that they don’t stick to the grill. Also, sometimes I like to add 5 quartered black olives to the salad, the shrivelled kind with the pips in, not the tasteless Pizza Express topping kind.

Ingredients (serves 1)
For the fish:
2 small red mullet or 1 normal sized (the smaller, the more delicious)
2 sprigs of rosemary
3 large pinches ground cumin
2 pinches paprika
6 cherry tomatoes
1 piece of the fennel shoot (the bit that looks like celery coming from the top of the bulb)
1 drizzle of olive oil
For the salad:
1/4 preserved lemon
1 clove garlic
1 handful parsley
1 pinch za’atar
1/2 fennel bulb
1 pinch chilli flakes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch salt
1 handful rocket leaves


  • Preheat your oven and grill to 180C.
  • Meanwhile, pat the fish dry with a paper towel then cover evenly in the cumin, paprika, oil, salt and pepper. Then stuff them with a sprig of rosemary in the cavity running from their mouth to their tail.
  • Thinly slice the fennel shoot and with a knife make small crosses at the top of each of the tomatoes. Arrange the fennel, fish and tomatoes on a baking sheet, use foil if it’s not non-stick. Then place at the top of the oven.
  • If the fish are small they will only need 4 minutes on each side.
  • While the fish is cooking, finely chop the preserved lemon, garlic and parsley. Finely slice the fennel bulb then slice again into matchsticks.
  • Throw the preserved lemon, garlic, parsley, fennel, za’atar, chilli flakes, extra virgin olive oil, salt and rocket leaves into a bowl and mix.
  • Make sure to turn your fish in the oven.
  • Once the fish are cooked, leave to rest for 2 minutes while you plate the salad then top the fish with the tomatoes and cooked fennel.
  • Another drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over the top of the fish wouldn’t go amiss here but is optional if you are worried about how much olive oil I am suggesting you consume.


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