I first tried this last week when I was in Penzance with my brother, Martin; this dish is ridiculously easy to make and absolutely delicious! We picked up the freshly caught fish at lunchtime and cooked this up on a whim in the evening. The freshness of the fish evokes a quite wonderful essence of the sea: a beautiful flavour that is enhanced by the lovely and light pearl barley ‘risotto’ – the perfect base for these delightful little fish – just yummy!
Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main course
What you need…
for the orange oil
Zest of 1 orange, grated finely
75ml rapeseed oil
25ml olive oil
for the main dish
1 x medium baking tin
400ml hot water from the kettle
1 vegetable stockpot (I use Knorr)
8 spring onions
8 red mullet fillets (your fishmonger will do this for you)
50g unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, chopped
100g pearl barley
1 teaspoon saffron strands
200g spinach, washed and trimmed
2 teaspoons dill, chopped, plus extra fronds to garnish
50g Parmesan, grated finely
Sea salt and black pepper
What to do…
Ideally, the day before you want to enjoy this dish, make up the orange oil by putting all the ingredients into a blender and whizzing for 1 minute. Pour the mixture into a jug, cover, pop into the fridge and leave to infuse for 24 hours. Strain into a screw-topped jar and keep in the fridge until needed (it will actually keep for up to 1 month).
Time to prepare this lovely meal! First, a bit of prep: make some stock by using a balloon whisk to dilute the stockpot into the hot water. Set aside. Trim the spring onions and slice finely, keeping the white parts separate from the green. Set aside. That’s it – prep done.
Heat a large saucepan over a medium heat and add a splash of rapeseed oil and the butter. When hot, add the white spring onion slices and the garlic. Stir for 1 minute and then add the pearl barley, stirring for a further minute.
Pour in 200ml of the vegetable stock and add the saffron. Bring to the boil and then simmer on a moderate heat for 20 minutes, checking on it occasionally – if it looks like the stock is being absorbed too soon, add a little more until the 20 minutes is up and the cooking liquid is now almost completely absorbed. Discard any remaining stock.
Add the green spring onion slices, spinach and dill and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the Parmesan, season, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
For the fish, allow 4 minutes before the end of the pearl barley cooking time. Heat your grill to medium. Splash a little rapeseed oil into your baking tin, spread all around and season. Pop the fish in, skin side up and slide the tin under the grill, cooking for 4 minutes or until just cooked through.
Spoon the barley onto warmed plates and arrange the red mullet on the top. Drizzle orange oil over and around the fish and then garnish with dill fronds. Dead easy and absolutely delicious!
My bro and before him, Nathan Outlaw.
Very easy. The freshness and essential flavours of the fish obviate the need for any fancy cooking – it’s all there for you already!