James Bond’s dinner with former British secret agent Madame Sixtine at her luxurious house near Antibes on the French Riviera in Anthony Horowitz’s second Bond novel, Forever and a Day (2018) is a simple affair: grilled fish, salad, cheese and bread, all washed down with a bottle of the finest Puligny-Montrachet.
Sixtine admits to Bond that she’s not a good cook and is not interested in anything that takes more than five minutes to prepare. That being the case, she might be tempted by this recipe for grilled fish, which is based on one for a dish that was served, appropriately enough, at the buffet de la gare in Nice and published, equally appropriately, given that the events of the novel are set in 1950, by the SNCF (French railways) in 1951.* The garnish may be a little over-fussy for Sixtine’s taste, but she might make an exception here, as the ingredients are kitchen essentials in any household on the Riviera and take next to no time to prepare.
We don’t know what type of fish Sixtine cooks, but the original recipe calls for red mullet (rouget à la Niçoise) and that’s what I’ve gone for here.
- 2 red mullet fillets (or 4 fillets for larger appetites)
- 2 salad tomatoes
- 6 anchovy fillets
- Approx. 6 black olives, pitted and halved
- 2 slices of lemon
- Salt and black pepper
- Olive oil
Score the tomatoes at the top with cross, then place them tomatoes in a bowl and cover with freshly boiled water. Remove the tomatoes after a couple of minutes, then peel off the skin. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds. Finely chop the tomatoes and set aside.
Place the red mullet fillets on a baking tray (non-stick or brushed with oil) skin-side down. Brush the fish with olive oil and sprinkle over the fish a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Place the tray under a hot grill for 3 minutes. Turn the fish over, repeat with the oil, salt and pepper, and return to the grill for another 2-3 minutes. (To keep within Sixtine’s five-minute rule, prepare the tomatoes while the fish is cooking.)
To serve, divide the chopped tomato between two plates, arranging the tomato into piles. Lay the fillets onto the tomato and arrange the lemon, olives and anchovies beside the fish. Accompany with a salad, hunks of crispy baguette, and a glass of white wine.
∗ Les Plats Régionaux des Buffets Gastronomiques (SNCF, 1951)