When cooked, red mullet is a beautiful fish, glowing orange with just a hint of gold. It has a natural affinity with saffron. It is also very good with roasted fennel, Pernod or simply with a green salad and buttery hot little new potatoes.
For the aioli
1 tsp saffron threads
3 egg yolks
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
The juice of half a lemon
80ml/3fl oz olive oil
For the fish
Allow one fish per person weighing about 300g/10oz (ask your fishmonger to gut and scale them)
Enough oil to brush the fish
Plenty of sea salt and black pepper
Start by making the aioli. This can be made a day or so in advance. Place the saffron threads into a small bowl and add just enough warm water to cover. Steep for five minutes. Place the yolks, garlic and lemon juice into a blender and season with a pinch of salt.
Once the saffron has softened and the water has turned a deep, golden orange, add to the other ingredients in the blender. Turn on your machine and pour the oil as slowly as you can through the funnel in the top – the aioli will gradually begin to thicken and become unctuous. Once all the oil is finished, turn off the engine and spoon the sauce into a bowl. Set aside while you grill the fish.
If you don't have a satisfactory grill, you can roast in the oven – which should be set at its highest setting. Otherwise, light your grill or barbecue and, when very hot, brush the fish with the olive oil and season generously with the salt and a little black pepper.
Place the fish on the hottest part of the grill and cook on one side for eight to 10 minutes, then carefully turn (I find tongs the most helpful implement here) and cook for a further five minutes on the underneath. The cooking time would be the same in the oven.
Remove the fish and lay together on a platter to let everyone help themselves. Pass the aioli around separately. One of my favourite accompaniments to this meal is a simple tomato salad, well salted and scattered with thyme or basil. Good bread and unsalted butter are imperative.