Summer vegetable minestrone with crispy skinned Grey Mullet and Samphire

Recipe courtesey of Daniel Dare at The Chimney House, Brighton. July 2011. 

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"I love the versatility of this dish as you can change the vegetables to suit the season - light and fresh in the summer through to hearty and warming in the winter. Butternut squash, Swede, turnip, celeriac, asparagus and mange tout all work well, kale spinach or chard are also great additions. It also works with many types of fish so whatever your preference - be it sea bass, mackerel, salmon or mullet, feel free to play around with the ingredients you use. Crispy capers as a substitute for the samphire can work well too. Literally shallow fry capers on a low heat until they stop fizzing and then drain onto paper towels."  Daniel Dare, head chef at The Chimney House.

Check out our recommended wine of the month to match with this dish.  Special offer from The Chimney House to elwood wines customers -  if you want Dan and his team to prepare this dish for you, then take a bottle of our wine of the month along to The Chimney House and there will be no corkage to pay!  Offer limited to one bottle per couple and you must mention "Elwood free corkage offer" when you make your booking.  Offer valid until 31 July 2011.

Serves 4

For the minestrone:

2 litres good quality fish stock (see recipe below)

100ml olive oil

4 shallots

2 carrots

10 new potatoes

1 fennel bulb

200g podded and peeled broad beans

200g freshly podded peas

1 summer squash or similar

1 small green courgette

1small yellow courgette

1 sprig tarragon

2 good sprigs of parsley

200g samphire

Aprox 600g scaled and filleted grey mullet

Malden sea salt

White pepper

Method:

If you have a mandolin it will make your job easier and presentation of the dish better as it will give a certain uniformity to the vegetables. But fear not, a sharp knife will suffice. Peel, deseed and cut the squash into aprox 1cm cubes, shallow fry these in oil in a non stick pan, turning occasionally until lightly browned, put aside.   Peel and cut the carrots in half lengthways and slice finely on a 45degree angle. Likewise for the shallots but without the angle.  Trim and cut the fennel bulb in half and slice finely across the grain. Cut the courgettes into aprox 1cm dice, slice the new potatoes into thin ½ cm rounds, not too thick otherwise they will still be raw while the fresh summer vegetables will be turning grey. Chop the parsley and tarragon, wash the samphire.

Ensure the fish has been scaled properly, trim off any rogue fins, belly and tail so it has an even symmetrical shape. Also make sure there are no bones through the centre of the fillet, a pair of tweezers will pull these out in a jiffy. Pat the fish dry and set aside.

Now you have everything in place you can start cooking. Put the oil in a large heavy bottomed pot on a medium heat. Add the shallots, carrots and fennel, lightly season and sweat down for 4-5 minutes. Add the new potatoes, lightly season again, stir through and then add the stock, bring it to the boil add the squash, courgettes, broad beans and peas and let simmer for no more than ten minutes, add the herbs and check the seasoning.  Ideally you want all the vegetables to be just cooked, almost al dente.

For the fish:

It is important to source white peppercorns as black pepper is just too strong for fish and will overpower the dish.  Turn the fish over and run the back of a knife along the skin - like a squeegee - to remove excess moisture and pat dry. This will help get a crispy finish. Season the skin with salt, set aside for 5 minutes and repeat the process.

Season lightly with salt and pepper and place the fish skin side down in a hot pan with not too much oil as it will hiss and spit. Apply some pressure to the fish and flatten gently. A small plate would work well for this. After 3-4 minutes remove the plate from the fish, check the heat and lower to medium depending on your pan and stove. If you think it's burning turn it down and cook gently until it looks about ¾ done. On  the heat add a couple of knobs of butter and when it starts to foam turn the fish over and set aside off the heat, spooning the hot butter over the skin to give it shine.  Lightly toss the sorrel in a little butter and season lightly - easy on the salt.

To serve :

Ladle the broth into bowls ensuring an even distribution of vegetables, place the buttered samphire and the fish skin side up in the centre. Bon appetite.

 

* you can use a good quality bought fish stock or follow this recipe

Frames or frame from your fish

1 large onion

1 large carrot

1 stick of celery

1 small leek, white part only

1 small fennel bulb

1 bay leaf

2 sprigs of thyme

10 peppercorns

Parsley stalks

200ml dry white wine or vermouth

50g butter

Ask your fishmonger for the frames of the fish you are serving and you're away.  Firstly take the heads off the frames and discard, wash the bones making sure to clean any blood from the spine and put aside. Next peel the onions and carrots and clean any dirt from the leeks and celery. Roughly dice these to approximately ½ inch.  Finely slice half a fennel bulb and with the rest of the chopped vegetables add to a large heavy bottomed pan with the butter and sweat over a medium heat until they start to cook but not colour. Add the bones and white wine. Let that reduce by half  and then cover with the water, finally adding the aromatics. Just bring to the boil and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes. It is important to skim the stock often to remove the scummy froth that rises to the surface. This will make your stock bitter. When the stock is ready gently pour off the clear stock through a fine sieve into a container. Be careful you don't want any of the cloudy sediment near the bottom; a nice clear broth is your aim.

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