‘Triglia alla griglia’: red mullet in pancetta with orange & caper salad

We’re a family of keen fish eaters, J included which is a nice surprise as many young kids won’t touch fish. Red mullet haven’t featured on our home menu a while as they are more challenging to debone, even for adults. The fish shop had meatier, larger ones glistening a bright and fresh orangey-pink on Friday; they were too tempting to ignore.

Triglia alla griglia. Red mullet grilled with capers and oranges

As the weather has held up since my first BBQ outing mid week, the red mullet were simply plonked on the grill to sear wrapped in strips of thin smokey pancetta – a useful trick with fish as the pancetta ensures the fish stays in shape and doesn’t end up stuck, indelibly, to the BBQ grill.

Red Mullet with capers
Red mullet grilled with red & yellow cherry tomatoes

We’ve started eating fish a whole lot more recently, and no doubt summer weather will see it on our plates at least twice a week as it’s so quick to cook and healthy. With the sea just five minutes away from us in Malta, wherever you live on the islands, it’s a no-brainer to eat fish and support our fishermen. Ten paces from my door in the village square, the ‘fish-wife’ has her stall most weekday mornings. Best to get to her before 0715 though when the church doors open after an early mass (she’s strategically positioned right outside) and a jostling crowd of church-goers grab the best of the day’s catch.

Red mullet in pancetta with blood orange & caper salad

blood orange and caper salad recipe

It’s meat-free week in Australia this past week, news of which has arrived in my mail box almost daily and on fellow food blogs. The campaign isn’t about not eating meat but stresses that we should try to eat less for various reasons which include the dubious factory-farming processes and environmentally-unsound aspects of some elements of the meat industry – think provenance and production of our meat these days (and don’t we all know about that in Europe following the recent horse meat scandals?). Sensitising us to seeking out ethically- and humanely-farmed meat is the aim of the Meat-free Week campaign. These days of course we’ve fish farming too. I try to buy wild fish, caught by sustainable fishing practices. More fish, and less but better-farmed and quality meat is something I want to follow through.

If you haven’t tried oranges with capers in a salad, do make this! It’s an amazing combination and ideal eaten alone perhaps with a slice or two of a good Pecorino on top when it’s not accompanying fish. Excuse the Italian in the recipe title – the alliteration of triglia (red mullet) and griglia (grill) was too much fun.


Red mullet in pancetta
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Pancetta adds a smoky flavour to the mullet and keeps them succulent. The orange and caper salad is a fresh accompaniment.
Recipe type: Fish
Cuisine: Mediterranean
  • Red mullet
  • Pancetta – one strip, thinly sliced, to wrap each fish
  • Juice & zest of one orange
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Fresh-ground black pepper & sea salt
  • BLOOD ORANGE & CAPER SALAD: 1 blood orange per person (or regular orange
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained, whether preserved in vinegar, brine or salt
  • oil & lemon dressing – 5 parts oil to 2 parts lemon, plus seasoning
  1. Take your descaled and cleaned mullet, rinse them off and pat them dry.
  2. Marinade with a drizzle of olive oil, orange juice and some orange zest, season and then chill for 2-3 hours in the fridge.
  3. When ready to cook, drain off the marinade and then wrap each fish with a strip of thin pancetta, or Parma ham if you like.
  4. You can place them under a grill to sear and cook or in a ridged griddle pan or on the BBQ. Whichever heat source, ideally preheat on high to sear the fish flesh and then reduce to medium to cook through. Total cooking time is around 4-5 minutes each side depending on how meaty/large the fish are.
  5. Serve straightaway with the orange and caper salad (below) and some grilled or roast cherry tomatoes and a green salad of choice, along with some crusty bread. This makes a great light summer main or supper dish.Peel and then slice the oranges into discs.
  6. Arrange on individual side plates.
  7. Sprinkle over capers and onion slices. Adjust amounts according to your taste.
  8. Just before serving, drizzle over the dressing and add a sprig of mint to each salad.



  1. adrian farrugia says

    just had the same identical dish last Sunday at Baia Restaurant in Little Armier Bay! Just Delicious :)

    • says

      Great minds think alike! I’ve not been to Baia beach club (on my list for this summer!) and have heard it spectacular and a great place to chill out at (even with kids in tow!). Pretty chilled out when I bbq’d these little fish in my garden though. Off to fish shop tomorrow early to see what else is in season. Hope to have another fishy dish this weekend.

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