Red mullet aren’t really mullets at all, but a type of goatfish. They are a reddy, orange often with distinct yellow stripes running the length of their bodies and have little barbels (whiskers) on their chin.
They are found in large numbers in the Mediterranean and south of the Bay of Biscay. They used to be summer visitors to British waters, but with the warming seas, they’re starting to be seen all year round.
Red mullet are bottom feeders, rummaging around in the sand for morsels to eat. They’re occasionally caught in bottom nets, set for soles, our guys in the channel catch them very occasionally. Down in Cornwall they can be targeted due to the higher numbers down there.
They’re often called the woodcock of the sea, as like these little birds, they’re often cooked whole (guts in, scales on). This way the fish steams in its shell of scales. We find this imparts too strong a flavour and while some people love it, we think they’re much tastier scaled then gutted.
By scaling them, their skin crisps up (crispy red mullet skin is DEElish), it is worth taking the liver out (it’s the large, dark, smooth thing in the viscera) and popping it back in the cleaned body cavity.
Roast whole in a hot oven, slashed to the bone a few times, drizzled with oil and with some rosemary or thyme. For larger fish, it’s worth searing the skin in a hot pan before roasting, just to guarantee that crispiness.
(Click to enlarge)