Arundel Mullet, Sussex
Though Arundel is a good few miles inland from where the river Arun meets the sea at Littlehampton , the tides on the river are such that mullet reach the town. Izaak Walton mentions the fish when writing about Sussex . Indeed, Arundel locals are known as mullets because of the abundance of the fish there, and the local football team has the nickname The Mullets.
The traditional dish, Arundel Mullet, is a very distinctive one, the ingredients leading to the surmise that it may date from medieval times. The fish, once cooked in a gently simmering shallow pot of very lightly salted water (which will help get rid of any muddiness in the fish – pre-soaking in water to which vinegar is added helps if you fear the mullet you have bought will be muddy) is served with an unusual sauce.
This sauce is made with about half the cooking water, or the same amount of some fresh lightly salted water if a hint of mud is detected in the flesh – you'll lose some of the fishy depth in the sauce, but avoid unwanted earthy flavours too, not a bad bargain. As the sauce is made with a few anchovies, and the anchovies replace the fish flavour if you discard the cooking water, it may be safer to use a fresh measure of water in the sauce. Pound a couple of the anchovy fillets if you think the sauce will be too thinly flavoured. Squeeze the juice from a quarter of a lemon into the water, add two Paris goblets of red wine, two medium onions chopped finely, a good few sprigs of thyme, a little chopped parsley leaf, some chives, a bay leaf or two, even a tiny sprig of rosemary, depending on what you have to hand – enough to give a herby background without overwhelming what is not a strongly flavoured fish – grate a good sprinkling of nutmeg in, and simmer the sauce until it reduces by about a third – use your judgment to avoid the sauce reducing too much and becoming salty.
Serve the fish, which has been kept warm to one side, in a suitably elegant dish with enough of a lip to hold the sauce poured over. This is a dish that deserves to be eaten without accompaniment, perhaps as the fish course in a special meal.