Ultimate Fish and Shellfish Recipes

The River Cafe’s Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers apply their ethos for fresh, seasonal and regional ingredients to Italian cookery and prove wonderful fish dishes don’t have to be complicated…

RC fish 46

The fish recipes we love to cook in the River Cafe come from all of the regions of Italy we have visited over the last 20 years. Every region has its own rules and methods. Simplicity and freshness are common factors, and seasonality is always important.

Fried scallops with anchovies and chilli is a very popular dish in the restaurant. It relies on fabulously fresh scallops. Ours are sent down from Scotland overnight on the train every day of the week.

Sea bass baked in a bag with vermouth and fennel is a winter dish from the Tuscany coast. In the summer we replace the fennel with porcini and fresh thyme.

Red mullet is a fish that is often found simply grilled and stuffed with rosemary in the Mediterranean. This recipe uses porcini mushrooms and trevise. Baking the fish in a bag in this way ensures this lovely combination of flavours are absorbed by the fish.

Salt cod is a great favourite in Piedmont. This simple salad is just a beautiful piece of cod, cooked in a well-flavoured stock, dressed with a lovely cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil, some peppery rocket and a piece of bruschetta.

As we have learnt over time, the secret is in the quality of the ingredients.

We hope you enjoy these recipes.

1. Fried scallops with anchovies and dried chilli

RC Scallops Anchovies

With the right produce a delicious meal can be whipped up in minutes. These scallops are flavoured with the simplest of ingredients to complement the fresh shellfish.


16 medium scallops

8 anchovy fillets

1 dried red chilli, crumbled

2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped

juice of 1 lemon, plus 1 lemon cut into quarters

extra-virgin olive oil


Brush a large, thick-bottomed frying pan with a little oil to prevent the scallops sticking, then place over a high heat.

When smoking, add the scallops, season and cook for 2 minutes on one side. Turn the scallops over and immediately add the anchovies and chilli, plus a little extra-virgin olive oil. Cook for a further 2 minutes.

Finally add the parsley, then squeeze over the lemon juice and season. Place the scallops and anchovies on a plate with the juices from the pan spooned over. Serve with the lemon quarters.

2. Sea bass baked with vermouth and fennel

RC fish 24

Sea bass goes wonderfully with the fresh flavours of citrus and fennel. The chilli gives this recipe a little bit of a kick without going over the top.


4 x 220g sea bass fillets

150ml extra-dry vermouth

2 fennel bulbs, tough outer layers and stalks removed (keep the leafy tops)

200g unsalted butter, softened

2 dried red chillies, crumbled

juice and grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 1 lemon cut into quarters


Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6.

Cut the fennel bulbs lengthways into 1cm-thick slices. Cook in boiling water for 4 minutes, then drain and cool.

Make 4 rectangles in doubled foil, dull side out. Smear each generously with butter, then season with salt and pepper. Place a fillet in the middle of one half of each piece of foil and cover with a few slices of fennel. Scatter with dried chillies, lemon zest and a few bits of fennel herb. Place a knob of butter on the fish. Fold the other half of the foil over the fish and fold to seal each side, leaving the top open. Pour a little vermouth and lemon juice into each, then seal the edges making a loose, but airtight, package.

Put the bags on a baking tray and place in the pre-heated oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until the bags inflate. Split open each bag and serve.

3. Red mullet in a bag with trevise

Style: "Neutral"

This recipe uses porcini mushrooms and trevise – their seasons overlap briefly in late autumn. Cooking fish in this way keeps it delightfully moist.


4 x 500g red mullet, scaled and cleaned

2 small trevise or radicchio heads

75g butter

2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into fine slivers

200g fresh porcini mushrooms, wiped clean with a damp cloth and sliced

4 sprigs of thyme

2 lemons, cut into quarters

extra-virgin olive oil


Pre-heat the oven to 230ºC/Gas Mark 8.

Heat the butter in a pan and fry the garlic until light brown. Add the sliced porcini, season with salt and pepper and fry, shaking the pan, for 5 minutes.

Make 4 rectangles of doubled foil, dull-side out, and brush with oil. Place 3 or 4 trevise leaves in the centre of one half of each piece of foil and add 2 slices of porcini, a little of the melted butter from the pan and some seasoning. Place the mullet on top with a sprig of thyme inside. Put some porcini slices on top with a few trevise leaves and a little more melted butter. Fold the other half of the foil over and seal the edges to make a loose, but airtight, package.

Place the packages on a baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes. Remove the mullet from the foil and serve with the lemon quarters.

4. Salt cod salad

RC fish 46

Every region of Italy has its own way of preparing salt cod. This recipe has its roots in Piedmont. Bear in mind that the salt cod has to be soaked first.


1kg salt cod

small bunch of parsley, roughly chopped (keep the stalks for the stock)

garlic clove, peeled, squashed with salt

juice of 3 lemons

6 fresh red chillies, de-seeded and chopped

200g rocket

225g black olives, stoned

bruschetta, to serve (see recipe to left)

extra-virgin olive oil


4 fresh bay leaves

fennel bulb, cut into 4, including the green parts, or a handful of fresh fennel leaves

head of garlic

2 carrots, peeled

small red onion, peeled

1 head of celery

2 tbsp black peppercorns


Soak the salt cod in fresh water for 48 hours, changing the water as many times as possible. The pieces will plump up as they soak and release salt. Drain thoroughly.

Put the cod in a large pot with the stock ingredients and the parsley stalks. Cover with cold water, bring to boil and simmer very gently until the cod is tender and flakes easily, about 15-20 minutes. Drain well and leave to cool.

Pull the cod apart into flakes. Put in a bowl and season with black pepper to taste, the salt-squashed garlic, a little of the lemon juice and 3 tbsp of olive oil. Turn the cod over in the bowl to season each flake, then add the parsley and the chillies.

Put the rocket leaves in a bowl and toss with 3 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of lemon juice. Add the salt cod and scatter over the olives. Turn gently to combine.

Serve with the bruschetta.