Barbounia with Fennel & Orange

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Appears in

Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

  • About

Depending on the time of year, as you pass through a Mediterranean open-air market the elderly head-scarved party who lurches towards you with a gap-toothed grimace may well be proffering a handful of partially dried flowering heads of fennel for sale - precisely what you want to perfume this dish of roast red mullet - barbounia in Greek. You are not likely to be so accosted in this country and will have to make do with the feathery leaves or bulb of the plant. These are not eaten, but will deliver enough fennel flavour to make the point and you can always add a little more emphasis with a teaspoon or two of pastis if you are in a particularly aniseedy mood. Ask the fishmonger to clean and scale the mullet. If the idea appeals to you, ask for the livers to be left in; some regard them as a delicacy.


  • 4 red mullet, each weighing about 150 g/ oz, cleaned and scaled
  • about 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 flowering heads of fennel or 2 handfuls of fennel fronds or 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 orange
  • 2 lemons
  • salt and pepper



About 1 hour before cooking: brush the fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put a bay leaf in each body cavity.

When ready to cook: preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas6. Chop whichever bit of fennel you have to hand and use it to cover the base of an oiled roasting dish in which the fish will just fit snugly on their sides.

Dribble the fennel with oil and lay the fish on top. Cut the unpeeled orange across into thin slices and put some overlapping on top of each fish. Juice one lemon, pour it over and leave to marinate for about 30 minutes.


Slice the second lemon and arrange over the fish, dribble some oil over the slices, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of water and roast uncovered for 15-20 minutes. The fish are done when the flesh lifts away easily.


Transfer the fish to warmed plates and spoon over the pan juices.

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