We had my sister-in-law coming to stay and planned to cook her dinner so I went up to Steve Hatt’s to see what I could find. My wife’s parents bought me my pasta maker and so I’m in the habit of making her family fresh pasta! Clams seemed the obvious choice, but there was a couple in the queue with similar plans but who were sounding very mundane about clams and spaghetti – I felt I had to do something more interesting.
Then I saw it, a big and beautiful red mullet. Fresh from Cornwall, plump and with piercing red eyes. I wasn’t at the front of the queue so I was anxious it would be picked by someone else. But I was lucky, and my luck continued. I asked for it to be just cleaned and scaled and then the fishmonger asked me if I wanted the liver. I’d never tried red mullet liver so I hastily agreed to take it to see what could be done. It was really delicious, with a rich seafood flavour, and created a spectacular bright red topping to the dish.
I actually got six fillets off the mullet, I used two in this recipe and froze the other four.
Serves 3 or 4
2 eggs, 1 egg yolk; pasta flour
2 or 3 small red mullet fillets, sliced into bite-sized pieces; red mullet liver (optional, I suppose); 3 cloves, fresh, wet garlic, sliced; 2 glasses dry white wine; 2 handfuls live clams, purged of grit; 50 g chilled unsalted butter; small handful chopped flat leaf parsley; 1 tbsp olive oil
To make the pasta, get a big pile of pasta flour on a work surface and make a well in the centre big enough to hold the eggs and yolk. Break the eggs into the well and beat gently with a fork. Now bring the flour from the outside into the eggs and start to mix. Keep mixing until you have a good dough that is just tacky. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until elastic. Wrap in cling film and set aside for at least 10 minutes.
Now you can prepare the other ingredients: fillet the mullet, slice the garlic, chop the parsley, clean the clams.
Get your pasta machine ready. Pull off a walnut sized piece of dough and pass it back and forth through the machine on its thickest setting at least six times. Now pass the sheet of pasta through the machine on the next thinnest setting. Repeat until you have a sheet of pasta run though on the thinnest setting. Set aside on a floured surface or clean, dry tea towel. Repeat for the rest of the dough. Attach the tagliatelle cutter and pass each sheet through this. Hang the strands to dry and get a large pan of salted water boiling away.
You need to work quickly now for the fish. Get the olive oil hot and add the liver. Cook gently until just cooked and set aside in warm place. Add the mullet pieces to the pan, skin-side down and cook through, turn over to finish and set aside with the liver. Add the garlic slices and gently soften then pour in the wine and bring to the boil. Put the clams in the pan, put a lid on and steam until they’ve all opened.
Pu the pasta into the pot of boiling water for just two minutes, until al dente. Drain, dress with a little olive oil to prevent sticking and arrange in bowls.
Remove the clams from the pan, set aside with the fish. Reduce the cooking liquor over a high heat, then turn down the heat and stir in the butter. Taste and season if necessary (although it will be quite salty from the clams).
Arrange the clams, mullet pieces and liver over the pasta and pour over the buttery sauce. Sprinkle over the parsley and serve.