One of the greatest things I look forward too as spring develops into summer is the coming of the Grey Mullet. Grey Mullet are a warm water loving fish and wait for the first glints of summer to re-enter our estuaries and rivers. The Grey Mullet has never had a good reputation in the UK, although unsurprisingly it is loved in Europe. The fish stocks are designated as healthy and most importantly tasty! This recipes ingredients were all foraged and fished for in one location. The coast is such plentiful place to gather Wild Food that it is no surprise that our ancestors tended to stick to the shorelines and build their towns and cities.
Grey Mullet with Sea Spinach Gnocchi, Pea Puree and Sea Vegetables
If you’re lucky enough as I am to live near enough to the coast to fish for Grey Mullet then here’s a tip for you. That muddy flavour that tarnishes the Grey Mullets reputation is due to the late cleaning of the fish. If you catch one, look to clean the fish and get it refrigerated as soon as you can.
Once your fish is prepared, cut the fillet into thick strips about 4 or 5cm’s across, season and then place in the fridge until ready.
Next your Gnocchi, take clean your potatoes (make sure you use a floury type) and place in a saucepan with their skins on. Boil in salted water until they are tender, probably 20 or 25 minutes and then drain and allow to cool to the point where you can handle them. Now, and importantly whilst they are still warm, gently peel the skin off and place in a bowl. What we have done by cooking with the skins on is allowed some flavour from the skin to be retained, but also prevented some of the flavour being washed out in the cooking water. Mash the potato, season and allow to cool.
Whilst this is cooling take your Sea Spinach and remove the stems from the leaves with a little triangle shaped cut, although we are sacrificing a really tasty piece of the leaf the texture isn’t what we want in the Gnocchi. Place the leaves in small saucepan or frying pan and add a little spoon of butter and seasoning. Cook the leaves until they begin to collapse but not before they lose their colour. When done, chop finely and then place on a cold plate to cool.
Once the potato and Sea Spinach has cooled, combine the ingredients and then give a little stir. Add your flour and a small glug of Rapeseed Oil and combine. Once the ingredients start to combine empty the ingredients onto a work surface and gently knead. You should be left with a green speckled ball of loveliness. Divide the ball into 4 and roll into a long sausage probably 3cms (roughly an inch) across. Using the back of a knife divide your Gnocchi sausage into 3cm sections. Each section can then be gently rolled down a fork and placed on a floured plate ready to cook. Repeat this process for half of your Sea Spinach Gnocchi mix, the other half can be kept in your fridge or freezer for another day.
Now that your Gnocchi is prepared, all we have to do is prepare the sea vegetables and Asparagus and make the Pea Puree. The Pea Puree is this easy.. Place your peas in a saucepan, season and add the milk. Once they have come up to heat and the milk begins to froth place in a blender with some chopped mint and blend until smooth.
The sea Vegetables need to be washed and cleaned, its worth going through them and taking off the tough ends of the Samphire, checking for only the perfect leaves of Sea Aster and taking out the stalks of the Sea Purslane. Chop the Asparagus into 3cm sections discarding the tough end of the Asparagus.
Now time to cook!!
You’ll need two frying pans, a large saucepan of boiling salted water and your Pea Puree keeping warm on the stove, oh and two warm plates.
Firstly, take your Grey Mullet fillet strips and fry them skin down in a little Rapeseed Oil and Butter. Whilst that starts to cook, take your Gnocchi and spoon into the boiling water. The Gnocchi will take two or three minutes and is ready when it floats to the surface. Once the Gnocchi is cooked, using one of those spoons with that drains the Gnocchi. Spoon the Gnocchi into the second frying pan, again with a little Rapeseed Oil and Butter and fry (keep your eye on this because even in the newest of non-stick pans, it will try!). In the water that the Gnocchi cooked in, throw your Asparagus and Sea Vegetables into the water and turn off the heat.
Next, when the Grey Mullet skin has taken good colour and become crispy turn it over and turn the heat off on this pan as well.
The Gnocchi should have begun to colour by now so keep this moving in the frying pan whilst you prepare to serve.
On the warm plates, using a spoon draw a line across the plate of the Pea Puree, you want quite a lot of the puree, it’s delicious and adds a lovely freshness the plate.
The vegetables should have had about 2 minutes in the hot water now, that’s more than enough we want them to retain a crunch so using your draining spoon (whatever that is called), scoop up your vegetables and place them in with the Gnocchi. Toss the Gnocchi, Asparagus and Sea Vegetables together and then we are going to plate this up as well. Be a little chef’y with this and place it down the centre of the plate, making sure that there is a nice mix of the Gnocchi and different Sea Vegetables. Next get the fish and lay the fish evenly across the line Gnocchi. Now finish the plate with a little drizzle of Rapeseed Oil and devour!
Fresh Grey Mullet like this is stunning. The rich meat has a vague similarity to Salmon and its moist flesh and crunchy skin make the whole plate. The Gnocchi speckled with the Sea Spinach adds a touch of soft comfort and the crunchy sea Vegetables and Asparagus textures as well as flavour. The Pea Puree cuts through the richness of the Mullet and the Butter and freshens the whole dish. I serve the extra Pea Puree on the side too!.
Fresh Grey Mullet is the key to this dish, so next time you are at the seaside or by a marina take a look at the basking Grey Mullet, why not work out how to catch one!!
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