My mother serves this classic Roman Jewish dish every year before the 25-hour Yom Kippur fast. She likes to use very small red mullet. It also appears on our family’s Seder plate at Rosh Hashanah, as fish is one of the festival’s nine symbolic foods, suggesting proliferation. If you follow the tradition not to use vinegar at New Year because of its sourness, leave it out on this occasion and use more white wine instead. Personally, I always struggle with the tiny bones in red mullet, but if you don’t mind them, then do try the original recipe with whole fish. Alternatively, you can use fillets instead, if you prefer. Rather than roasting, as I suggest here, some Roman Jews cook the fish on the hob in a covered non-stick frying pan over a low to medium heat for 10-12 minutes. You get more juice this way and the fish stays a touch moister. Try it both ways.
Photo: Barbara Toselli
PREP - 10 minutes
COOK - 15 minutes
SERVES - 4
8 small to medium whole or filleted red mullet 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 2 tbsp pine nuts 2 tbsp raisins or sultanas 3½ tbsp white wine vinegar or cider vinegar Splash of white wine (about 3 ½ tbsp) Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
You will also need an oven dish or baking tray about 35 x 25cm
Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan/400°F/gas mark 6).
Rinse the fish in fresh running water, pat dry, then place them in the oven dish or baking tray. Drizzle the oil on top and sprinkle with salt, pepper and half the pine nuts and raisins or sultanas. Gently rub the ingredients around the fish and arrange in one layer (skin-side up if using fillets).
Roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes for whole fish or 5 minutes for fillets. Add the remaining pine nuts and raisins or sultanas along with the vinegar and wine, and then place under a hot grill for a final 3-5 minutes, until light golden.
Remove from the grill and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Tip: Soaking the raisins or sultanas in warm water for 5 minutes before adding them to the fish makes them softer and juicier.
From 'Jewish Flavours of Italy: A Family Cookbook' published by Green Bean Books 2022