Red mullet with shaved summer salad

by Lesley Holdship

A bright, citrusy salad with a grilled fillet of fish

Summer evenings call for easy-to-eat, bright, light food that is quick to prepare, using the very best produce of the season. I love the pop of citrus in this dish—the grapefruit lends a delicious sourness to the mix. Most types of fish will work with this flavour combination: talk to the wonderful traders—they will help you find something to suit your tastes. I recommend plumping for a fillet, as they are very quick to cook. This dish works equally well as a starter or main course. Serve with delicious chilled wine or rhubarb cordial.


1 tsp fennel seeds
100g creme fraiche
50ml water
5-6 sorrel leaves
2 golden beetroots
1 fennel bulb
1 pink grapefruit
A handful of fennel fronds
A knob of butter
500g red mullet, filleted
Sea salt and pepper


Start by making the dressing. Warm a small pan and add the fennel seeds. Heat until they start to jump around, then slide them into a pestle and mortar and crush them a little to release the oils.

Make a chiffonade of the sorrel: stack the leaves neatly on top of each other and roll them up lengthways, very tightly. Slice across the roll as thinly as you can, making delicate strips. Use an extremely sharp knife so as not to bruise the leaves.

Mix together the creme fraiche, sorrel and half the toasted seeds, along with the water, then season really well. Set aside.

Peel the beetroot and slice very thinly. Use a mandolin if you are feeling brave, or a very sharp knife if not. Place the beetroot in a large bowl.

Trim any pieces of fennel that need it, then slice in half lengthways, cutting out the core if you like. Cut across the fennel very thinly to make pretty little semi-circles. Add to the beetroot.

Segment the grapefruit by firstly paring away the thick skin and pith. Hold the fruit over the bowl containing the beetroot and fennel, and cut in between the pithy membranes, allowing the beautiful segments to escape into the bowl below. Squeeze out the left behind pith. Toss together with the fennel fronds and set aside while you cook the mullet.

Rub a little oil on each fillet, season generously, then sprinkle with the remaining fennel seeds. Heat the grill to the highest setting—or indeed a barbecue if time permits—and cook the mullet skin-side up for around 6-7 mins. The heat of the baking tray will cook the flesh, so there is no need to turn it over. If you are barbecuing, cook for around 3-4 mins each side

Serve the fish on piles of salad, with a dollop of creme fraiche.

ALTERNATIVE: If you don’t enjoy beetroot, or don’t have any to hand, replace it with something texturally similar—ribbons of courgette or carrot, for example. And, if you like a good herby kick, try adding tarragon or chervil to the salad.