Red mullet, rocket and basil pesto, with aubergine and polenta
Pull any bones from the fillets – a pair of tweezers are a very useful addition to your kitchen tool kit.
1 long, narrow aubergine, thinly sliced
3tbsp extra virgin olive oil 3 large or 6 small red mullet, filleted (reserve the bones and freeze for fish stock, see recipe, left)
pul biber (chilli flakes), to
For the basil pesto
25g fresh basil leaves
4tbsp lightly toasted pine nuts 125ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to cover
30g parmesan, freshly grated
For the polenta
90g instant polenta
3tbsp extra virgin olive oil 40g parmesan, freshly grated
To make the basil pesto, put the leaves and pine nuts in a blender and purée. Add the olive oil, about a third at a time, and blend. Finely blend in the parmesan to make a textured paste. Put in a bowl with a slick of the extra oil on top, which will maintain the bright-green colour. This can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Arrange the sliced aubergine in a single layer on a large, foillined baking tray and spoon over 2tbsp of the virgin olive oil.
Season the flesh side of the fish and place skin side up on a foil-lined baking tray. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, spoon over the rest of the oil, coating evenly.
Preheat the grill to high and place the tray of aubergine slices on a shelf about 15cm from the heat element. Grill for 2-3 minutes per side until crisp and golden (keep a close eye on them so they don’t blacken). Now grill the fish for 4 minutes on the one side only.
Meanwhile, just before serving (as you want a soft texture for the polenta), pour 750ml boiled water from the kettle into a large pan and return to the boil. Add 1tsp sea salt crystals and rain in the polenta in a steady stream to avoid lumps from forming. Whisk while you do this to stop it from boiling over and continue whisking for just 5 minutes until the mixture thickens. Whisk in the oil followed by the parmesan.
To serve, divide the polenta between 4 or 6 plates while still soft and wet. Top with 2 or 3 pieces of the grilled mullet and crispy aubergine slices. Spoon over some basil pesto and add a dusting of pul biber chilli flakes for the perfect finish.