Grey mullet with chilli-anchovy pangrattato

By Ian Baird

The grey mullet is that large fish which lurks around harbour walls hoping for a scrap of bread from a passing tourist. Being a slightly oily, white fleshed fish, they make fine eating – though are often overlooked in this country. Grey mullet are usually cheap to buy, sustainable and they are a great source of dietary iodine – we should be eating more of them. The mullet is a fairly bony fish, so I think it is best to cook it whole then remove the bones on serving.
Serves 4


For the pangrattato

  • 125g quality, dry bread
  • 1/2 tin of anchovy fillets (including oil)
  • 1 pinch chilli flakes
  • 1 large grey mullet
  • 2 limes, sliced
  • 50ml white wine
  • Salt
  • Optional herbs: bay, parsley, thyme

To serve

  • 1 fennel bulb, finely-sliced
  • 4 sticks of celery, finely-sliced
  • 3 banana shallots, finely-sliced
  • 15g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 16 cherry tomatoes
  • 250g cous cous
  • 20g fresh coriander, finely-sliced
  • 1 bag of winter salad leaves


To make the pangrattato, put the bread in a food processor, and reduce to breadcrumbs. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C, and then put the breadcrumbs in a dry roasting tin in the oven until dry and golden – it should take around 5 minutes. Shake the pan during cooking to ensure that the breadcrumbs crisp-up evenly, and make sure that they don’t catch and burn.

Meanwhile, put the  anchovy fillets and the chilli flakes in a pestle and mortar and grind to a paste. Add the breadcrumbs, and use the pestle to pound everything into a thick, oily paste.

Add the reserved anchovy oil to a hot frying pan, and then use it to cook the anchovy-chilli-breadcrumb paste. Keep it moving, so it doesn’t burn, and allow the moisture to evaporate from the paste, until it starts to break-up into crispy crumbs. Remove from the heat, and tip the pangrattato onto a wad of kitchen paper, to absorb the excess oil.

Gut the mullet and wash thoroughly, and then insert the lime slices into the gut cavity. Fragrant herbs like bay, parsley or thyme also make a nice addition – I often use bay from the garden.

Wrap the fish in foil or baking paper, add a splash of white wine and a pinch of sea salt. Ensure that the fold is along the top, so that the cooking juices don’t escape. Bake at 190°C for approximately 35 minutes.

About ten minutes before the fish finishes cooking, start to heat the butter and oil in a wok. Stir-fry the fennel, celery and shallots in the butter and oil. When they are still-firm, add a glug of wine, and a tablespoon or two of the fish stock from the parcel the grey mullet is cooking in. Reduce to a fine sauce.  In a separate frying , griddle the cherry tomatoes.

Cook the cous cous according to packet instructions, then season and stir through freshly-chopped coriander leaves.

To serve, make a bed of winter salad leaves, and place the flaked fish on top. Spoon the blanket of celery, fennel and shallot over the fish, and then sprinkle the pangrattato on top. Serve with the herby cous cous and tomatoes.

Related Seafood

Grey Mullet