The sense of smell is amazing. When I cook this, the aroma takes me right back to 1999 when I was preparing a similar dish at Rick Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow. The smell of red mullet cooking is unlike any other fish – it is utterly unique. That, and the smell of the girolles pan-frying with garlic and parsley, is enough to bring any food lover to their knees.

(Serves 4)

4 red mullet, 500–600g each, scaled, filleted and pinboned
Olive oil for grilling
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the roasted garlic aïoli
1 garlic bulb
2 egg yolks
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
400ml olive oil

For the girolles
400g girolles, cleaned and halved or quartered if large
A drizzle of olive oil
100g unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
75ml sherry vinegar
3 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley


Preheat your oven to 200°C/Fan 185°C/Gas 6. For the roasted garlic, wrap the garlic bulb in some foil, place it in an oven dish and bake for 45 minutes until soft. Unwrap the garlic and leave until cool enough to handle. Separate the cloves and squeeze out the soft garlic pulp.

To make the aïoli, put the egg yolks, lemon zest and juice, and the roasted garlic pulp into a small food processor. Blend briefly to combine then, with the motor running, slowly add the olive oil in a thin, steady stream through the funnel until it is all incorporated and the sauce is emulsified. Season with salt and pepper, blend for a further 30 seconds, then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Preheat your grill to its highest setting. To cook the girolles, heat a large frying pan over a medium heat, then add the olive oil and butter. When bubbling, add the girolles and fry for 2 minutes.

At the same time, brush the red mullet fillets with oil, season them and place skin side up under the grill. Now add the shallots and garlic to the girolles, cook for another minute, then add the sherry vinegar. Toss in the parsley, season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

By now, your red mullet fillets will be colouring and almost ready – they will take about 4 minutes. To check, lift one up carefully and turn it over. The flesh should be white with no sign of rawness. Place a large spoonful of the roasted garlic aïoli in the middle of each warmed plate and add a red mullet fillet. Share the girolles between the plates and serve straight away.