Claudia Roden’s pan-fried red mullet with tahini sauce

Red mullet with tahini sauce.
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 Red mullet with tahini sauce. Photograph: Jean Cazals/The Observer

The most popular item on the menu in the fish restaurants along the long Lebanese coast are the deep-fried red mullet that come accompanied by a tahini sauce and very thin crisp, deep-fried bread. They are fried whole, coated with flour, but at home I find it easier to pan-fry red mullet fillets.

Serves 4
red mullet fillets 8 (weighing about 80g each), skin on
salt and black pepper
extra virgin olive oil 2-3 tbsp
lemon 1

For the tahini sauce
tahini 75ml
lemon juice of 1
cold water 75ml
salt
garlic ½-1 clove, crushed (optional)

First make the sauce. Stir the tahini in the jar before using. With a fork, beat the tahini with the lemon juice. It will thicken to a stiff paste. Add the water, beating vigorously until you get the consistency of a pale runny cream. Then add a little salt and the garlic (if using) and pour into a serving bowl.

Season the red mullet fillets with salt and pepper and fry in the hot oil, preferably in a non-stick frying pan, for about 2 minutes on the skin side, then turn and cook the other side for half a minute more.

Serve the fish at once and let people pour the tahini sauce on the side.

VARIATION
Season 4 fish fillets (150g-200g), such as cod or haddock, with salt and white pepper and ½ teaspoon ground cumin. Dip the fillets in flour to coat them all over, and shallow-fry in sizzling olive oil, turning over once. Drain on kitchen paper and serve with the tahini sauce.
From Arabesque by Claudia Roden (Michael Joseph, £30)


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