Grey Mullet "Ladolemono"
Updated: Mar 6, 2021
Grey mullet is an underrated fish. Which is a shame because, with most treatments, is just about as good as sea bass and for a fraction of the price. So it is quite often a convenient alternative when bass, especially the line-caught fellows, are not available.
This recipe takes its inspiration from two traditional Greek dishes, both of which are heavily influenced in flavour by olive oil, lemon and oregano. The first is sea bass simply grilled and served with Ladolemono, a kind of ‘dressing’ consisting principally of olive oil, lemon juice and oregano. The second is a baked potato dish in which the potatoes are infused with the flavours of – you guessed it – olive oil, lemon juice and oregano. The Ladolemono is, in fact, a general purpose dressing, used to embellish fish, chicken, meat, vegetables, you name it. I thought this article by Mia Kouppa was especially informative. Because of Greece’s geographic location it comes as no surprise that fish recipes you find out there involving Ladolemono feature sea bass as the fish of choice. For the very simple reason that sea bass is currently not available on the market stall, I have suggested grey mullet in its place. When the rods and lines are out, of course use sea bass, but I also don’t see any reason why black bream wouldn’t be equally enjoyable treated this way.
Some years ago I attended a cooking class in a charming tavern in Athens run by a remarkably talented cook. She explained that in Greece they use a lot of oregano, but invariably dried rather than fresh. And she also, almost apologetically, explained that in Greece they call the stuff ‘oregano’ whereas she knew that In English it was called ‘oreeeegano’, to which the majority North American and Canadian audience nodded in agreement. “No!”, I said. “In English we call it ‘oregano’!”. It is true that genuine Greek dried oregano is considerably more aromatic and flavoursome than what is more commonly available in the UK, but that should not be a dissuasion from giving this dish a go.
Now I’m quite sure any Greek readers out there would advocate the use only of Greek olive oil. I’m also quite comfortable to conjecture that this is a heartfelt belief that their olive oil is the best. And indeed this is a dish where you really must use the best olive oil you have. A great friend of mine made me aware of a Lebanese product by Qadisha Valley which is what I have used here. It’s organic and has a flavour that is absolutely ideal for vinaigrettes and other dressings, which is why I thought it would fit in so nicely here – and it does. It also won a "Great Taste" award from the Guild of Fine Food in 2017. You can find it online from Rose Ash Foods. But, in the end, use what you have or like, just on this occasion bring out the good stuff! καλή όρεξη!
I have used the recipe of Scrummy Lane as the inspiration to create a sautéed potato accompaniment to the fish in which all the key traditional flavours of a traditional Greek baked potato dish are in attendance. Although I haven’t tried the original dish I would have no hesitation in serving it as the garnish to this fish dish – I just wanted something that could be cooked for smaller numbers and didn’t take 1½ hours to cook. So I have par-boiled the potatoes in a stock and water mixture infused with oregano and lemon zest - this infusion can be done well ahead of time, as can the par-boiling of the potatoes. I have then dusted the potatoes with seasoning and more oregano and simply shallow fried them in inexpensive olive oil. For an even quicker accompaniment you could use oven-cooked potato wedges dusted with oregano before they go in the oven, then sprinkled with a little lemon zest.
For the Ladolemono I have included a little mustard to help create a more emulsified ‘sauce’, but I believe that is perfectly within the bounds of acceptance. The balance of olive oil and lemon is, inevitably, going to be a matter of personal preference. I have seen suggestions that the ratio should be 1:1 but that is certainly far too tart for me. In Mia Kouppa, the ratio is a little below 2:1, and what I have proposed below is 2.5:1. I would however say, that Mediterranean lemons tend to be sweeter and less acidic than perhaps the ones most commonly available in the UK, so it would come as no surprise to me were the ratios from a Greek recipe writer not have quite the same result over here. What I would thoroughly recommend is to make your Ladolemono several days in advance – it gets better and better over the course of a few days. And if you make more than you need, it’s a superb alternative dressing for a salad – perhaps even a Greek salad?
Don’t be concerned about the length of the list of ingredients. Almost everything is or can be done in advance, so this is actually a really simple and stress-free dish to prepare.
Grey Mullet "Ladolemono"
Ingredients (serves 2)
For the Ladolemono:
2 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 tbsp best quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp best quality dried oregano
For the potatoes:
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and bashed
200ml chicken or fish stock
Strips of peel from half a lemon
½ tsp salt, plus a little more
A few twists of black pepper
1 tsp best quality dried oregano, plus a little more
1 large or two small potatoes, peeled and cut into 1½” chunks
Olive oil for shallow frying
Chopped parsley to garnish (optional)
For the fish:
2 fillets of grey mullet, or alternative fish (see recipe intro)
Coarse sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Make the Ladolemono ahead of time. Put all the ingredients in a jar, screw on the lid and shake vigorously to amalgamate. It can now be stored in the fridge until time to use. But bring it back to room temperature in advance.
To prepare the potatoes, heat the 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan and gently sweat the garlic until it releases its aroma but has not coloured. Add the stock and water, the lemon zest, salt, pepper and oregano. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for a few minutes (or for as long as you like), to infuse the liquid. Add the potatoes, return to the boil and simmer gently until the potatoes are just under-done. An inserted knife should feel only slight resistance in the centre. Drain in a colander and allow to steam dry. These can be kept aside for a few hours.
To finish the potatoes, heat the olive oil in a saucepan or small sauté pan to a temperature for shallow frying - about 190°C. Meanwhile toss the potatoes in a dusting of salt, pepper and oregano. Shallow fry the potatoes, in batches if necessary, turning regularly, until they are golden-brown on the outside. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in a low oven.
When ready to eat, preheat a ridged grill pan to quite a high heat. Brush the fish fillets on either side with a little olive oil and season with the sea salt and ground pepper on the flesh side, and rub the skin side with the coarse sea salt only. Place the fish skin-side-down on the grill pan and cook until it looks like the heat has penetrated about two thirds of the way through. Carefully turn the fillets over and turn off the heat. Leave for a further 30 seconds and then lift onto plates.
Put a pile of the potatoes on the plates and garnish them with the chopped parsley if using. Drizzle the fish with the amount of Ladolemono that you wish and serve immediately with lemon wedges, a green salad, extra virgin olive oil and salt, pepper and a small bowl of oregano.
"Taking the guesswork out of Greek cooking…one cup at a time", Mia Kouppa, accessed 17 February 2020: https://miakouppa.com/2017/07/03/olive-oil-and-lemon-sauce-λαδολέμονο/
"The Best Greek Potatoes (with a Video)", Scrummy Lane, accessed 17 February 2020: https://scrummylane.com/the-best-greek-potatoes/