Red mullet is given the star treatment with this recipe that creates a sea bed scene with all edible ingredients.
1kg/2lb 4oz mullet bones, ask your fishmonger for these
400ml/14fl oz Syrah wine
50ml/2fl oz olive oil
100g/3½oz carrots, finely sliced
100g/3½oz shallots, finely sliced
45g/1½oz celery, finely sliced
45g/1½oz leeks, finely sliced
6 tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 garlic clove, sliced
2 bay leaves
1 sprig thyme
1 tbsp parsley leaves
½ tsp juniper berries
½ tsp black peppercorns
table salt, to season
1 tsp cardamom pod
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
175ml/6fl oz reserved mullet stock (from above)
130g/4½oz reserved mullet flesh trimmings, ask your fishmonger for these
4 red mullet livers
300g/10½oz tapioca starch (available online)
salt, to taste
flour, for dusting work surface
grapeseed or groundnut oil, for frying
500ml/17½fl oz water
1 kombu sheet
50g/2oz bonito flakes
6g agar agar
½ cucumber, peeled
200g/7oz purple potatoes, chopped into small chunks
salt, to season
100ml/3½fl oz double cream
½ lemon, juice only
1 tsp chopped chives
200ml/7fl oz grapeseed oil
2 shallots, finely sliced
50g/2oz dill, picked into small ‘branches’
50g/2oz salmon roe
50g/2oz Osetra caviar, optional
50g/2oz samphire grass, optional
1 pomegranate, seeds (arils) spooned out and separated from the pith
For the red mullet consommé, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Place the mullet bones into a roasting tray and roast in the oven for 10 minutes, checking frequently, until lightly coloured.
Pour the wine into a large pan, bring to the boil and flame off the alcohol, as soon as the flame dies down, take off the heat and set aside until needed.
Heat a large pressure cooker and add the olive oil. Then add the carrots, shallots, celery, leeks, tomatoes, garlic and fry gently until they are just starting to colour. Add the roasted bones, the flamed wine, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, the juniper berries and black peppercorns, season with salt and cover with 1.5 litres/2½pints water. Place the lid on the pressure cooker and bring to full pressure and cook for two hours.
Leave the pressure cooker to cool before opening, then skim the fat from the surface. Pass the stock through a fine sieve into a rectangular container. Cover and freeze until solid.
Line a perforated tray/steamer pan with a double layer of muslin large enough to hold the frozen stock in a single flat layer.
Once the stock is frozen, dip the bottom of the tray briefly in warm water to loosen, and turn out the stock on a perforated tray lined with two layers of muslin. Set this over a large container to catch the stock as it defrosts, and place in the fridge to thaw very slowly over 36-48 hours.
Discard the gelled mass left in the top tray. Pour the filtered consommé into a large pan and reduce by half. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Strain the finished consommé through a fine sieve and set aside to heat in a pan just before serving.
For the red mullet crackers, preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2. Put the star anise, cardamom, Sichuan peppercorns, in a dry roasting tray, place in the oven and toast for 10 minutes or until fragrant. Transfer to a grinder, or pestle and mortar, and coarsely grind the spices, then place them in a small piece of muslin and tie with string.
Heat the reserved mullet consommé with 175ml/6fl oz water in a pan, and bring up to the boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat. Add the muslin bag of spices to the pan and allow to infuse for 10 minutes. Remove the muslin spice bag and keep the stock warm over a low heat.
In food processor blend the mullet trimmings and livers to a paste. Then pass the paste through a sieve, into a bowl. Add the tapioca starch and salt.
Measure out 210ml/7fl oz of the infused mullet consommé, place into a pan and heat to 70C/160F, using a cooking thermometer to check the temperature. Then using a spatula, slowly incorporate the stock into the mullet flesh/liver mixture until it becomes a very sticky dough. Transfer to a floured work surface and knead until smooth in appearance. Divide the mixture in half, place each piece on a sheet of cling film and roll into a log about 5cm/2in diameter and 10cm/4in long. Wrap tightly in the cling film and tie the ends securely. Put the logs into a steamer on a rolling boil for one hour, turning once after 30 minutes. Allow to cool, then refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 65C/150F and line a baking tray with parchment. Unwrap the chilled logs and cut into lengthways slices of about 2mm thick, then cut these into strips 1cm/½in wide. Lay the strips on the prepared tray and place into the oven for 15-20 minutes, until they resemble dried pasta.
Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a frying pan to a depth of 3cm/1¼in. Heat to 170C/325F, then add one of the dried strips, it should puff up very quickly. Cook for 20 seconds, turning once (be careful not to fry for too long, as it may become bitter), then remove and place on kitchen paper to drain. Season with salt. Cook all the strips in this way, one at a time, then reserve in an airtight container until needed.
For the dashi stock, heat 500ml/18fl oz water in a pan and place over a medium heat, add the kombu sheet and bonito flakes, bring to the boil, then take off the heat and leave to cool. Pass through a fine sieve, reserving the liquid in a pan. Leave the liquid to cool.
Measure out 150ml/5fl oz of the dashi stock, and set aside for the cucumbers later, then add the agar agar to the remaining stock, and mix in a pan. Put the mixture back on the heat and bring to a boil, then remove from the heat. Leave the stock to cool down to 70C/160F, then pour a small amount on to a non-stick tray and tip the tray until it is thinly spread across the surface making a thin layer. It should be completely set after about 5-10 minutes, carefully peel off the gel sheet and cut into a circular shape about two-thirds the size of your serving plate. Repeat for each serving.
For the mullet fillets, mix the salt and dill together and sprinkle over the fillets, leave for six minutes, then wash well under cold running water.
Heat a frying pan to a medium heat and rub a little oil over both sides of the mullet fillets. Place the fillets into the pan skin side down and fry for four minutes, then turn over and cook for another four minutes or until cooked through.
For the sea bed, slice the cucumber into 5mm/¼in thick rounds and pour over the reserved dashi stock, leave to infuse for one hour.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Add the purple potatoes, bring back up to the boil and cook for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain just before serving.
Whisk the cream until thick, add the lemon juice and chives and stir through until well combined. Reserve until ready to serve.
Place the grapeseed oil into a heavy based pan and bring up to 140C/275F. Carefully place in the shallots and deep fry until golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Reserve until serving.
Place the digestive biscuits into a food processor and blend until crumbed. Reserve until serving.
Begin to build the sea bed by placing the cucumber rounds and purple potatoes sporadically around the plate, then spoon a little of the chive cream around, scatter the fried onions over and finish with a sprinkling of dill, salmon roe, caviar, samphire grass and pomegranate seeds (arils).
Place the dashi gel sheet over the ‘sea bed’ to represent the sea and place the mullet fillet just off the gel sheet to one side, finish by sprinkling a little of the digestive biscuit around the dish to symbolise the sand.
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