Monday, April 4, 2016

Red Mullett: Eating Fresh for Less

Concerned about the sustainability of the fish we eat?  Look no further than the mullet - particularly the red mullet - a prized fish in the Mediterranean that sells for peanuts in Australia and then when you eat it you will see why barbounia is one of the most esteemed  eating fish in Greece.

Greek Island of Sifnos - where I first ate barbounia

This is one of my favourite spots in the whole world - a wonderful walk through the herb scented hillsides, along ancient Byzantine pathways - and then a divine dip in this beautiful water!


Red Mullet - Barbounia in Greece

RED MULLET:  I made a surprising find yesterday that made me very excited.  The Brunswick Heads Fish Co-op had fresh red mullet for $6.00 per kilo - yes, that's right folks - six bucks!  This is the most prized fish in Greece that you can pay about 50 euros ($100) per kilo for - they call it barbounia and generally cook it whole.


 Cherronissos Taverna, Sifnos - a red mullet experience!


I love fish, and all things from the sea, but the cost can be prohibitive - have you bought any salmon lately?  An article in Good Living last week (food supplement of the Sydney Morning Herald) was encouraging consumers to steer away from the costly popular varieties of fillet fish (like salmon, barramundi, tuna and jewfish) and adventure into the world of lesser known species (and mores sustainable) - and buy them whole - like our friend the red mullet.

So, after buying it from the Brunswick co-op the test was going to be; 1. Would it taste the same as the wonderful ones we had in Greece?, and 2. Would I be able to cook it the same way (I am not a good fish cook)?

Fresh local mullet from Brunswick Heads - $3.60!

I did my best!  Leave the heads on, gut them and give them a light dusting of flour then cook in hot olive oil for a minute or so on either side. I always cook fish outside on the burner of my barbecue (the smell!!) - so this was another 'torch job' in the dark and cold.  It was worth it - they were delicious with just a squeeze of lemon, thick-cut fried potatoes and a fennel salad.  The verdict from him - tops!!  Put it on the blog!!  As for me - well, just for five minutes I was back in Sifnos.

NOTE:  Like eating whole sardines and anchovies, you simply pick up the whole fish and eat the flesh off the bone - then leave the skeleton on your plate!  This is a relatively stress free experience with barbounia because it doesn't seem to have a lot of 'floating' small bones.

Fennel and Fish have always been good partners as it's digestive qualities help to counteract the strong flavour and oiliness of some fish - like salmon and mackerel.  It has always been popular as flavouring in fish soups and, along with lemon, in stuffing large fish before baking.  Go to the post about fennel.

Sifnos has 365 chapels and churches - one for every day of the year - this is one of them!

NOTE: Another surprising and delightful find this week has been the blog written by Maria Verivaki from Chania, Crete called Organically Cooked.  I found it while looking for the recipe for an amazing squid and potato dish that we had in Crete flavoured with fennel - I have put a link to it in the sidebar - and she has sent me the recipe - to be continued.  She has lots of wonderful Greek recipes.

NOTE:  Nicholas Culpepper is one of the most famous herbalists that ever lived and wrote the 'bible' for anyone interested in herbs Culpepper's Complete Herbal.  He just happened to live a very long time ago 1616-1654 and published his famous book in 1653.  Here's what he had to say about fish and fennel:

"One good old fashion is not yet left off, that is to boil fennel with fish: for it consumes the phlegmatic humour which fish most plentifully afford and annoy the body with.  I suppose the reason of its benefits this way is, because it is an herb of Mercury and under Virgo, and therefore bears antipathy to Pisces.  Fennel is good to break wind, to provoke urine, and ease the pains of the stone and helps to break it."  So there you go - from the horses mouth, so to speak


Sifnos, an outdoor oven with a view!

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