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Recipe | The two islands: red mullet, shiso leaves, Ustica lentils, soba tea

The trip to Japan has inspired me in many ways and in most of the cases within the 3 walls of my kitchen (it’s an open one with the fire top placed just in front of the dining room).

Apart from a few ingredients, I brought back a huge amount of kindness: from the way Japanese people interact with others to the gentleness and respect in treating food to the delicacy of the resulting flavors.

And as cooking is a form of cultural act, it’s kindness the main ingredient that I tried to put into this dish. I called it ‘The two islands’ because I put both Japan and Ustica in the plate. Ustica is a small volcanic island north of my hometown. Having volcanic origins, it carries the sharpness of its rocks and soil in its produces and a unique minerality in their flavors.

  1. Chip and empty a couple of red mullets. Create four filets and drizzle with olive oil and a few flakes of dry yuzu (the Japanese citric so similar to lemon and so lighter in its acidic content)

  2. Place some shiso leaves on top of the filets and plastic film to keep the shape and allow a light marinate. Plate the wraps in the fridge for 30 minutes

  3. Simmer a handful of small dices of onion and carrot in olive oil. Then add the Ustica lentils (Slow Food product and the smallest lentils of Italy), a cup of water, salt and let it (boiling) until ready. My suggestion is to keep them a bit crunchy as it’s a consistency needed for the dish

  4. Take out the mullet from the fridge and boil some water that will be used to prepare a soba cha, a Japanese tea made from roasted buckwheat groats. It has a distinctive nutty and earthy flavor.

  5. Warm up a veil of olive oil on a large pan and once hot, place the red mullet filet on the skin side (the one not covered by the shiso leaves). Cover the pan with a lid. The skin will become crunchy and the fish will stay juicy.

  6. Serve on a plate and garnish the mullet adding a few slices of black garlic on top (for a pinch of sweetness) and sumac (a middle eastern spice that adds a delicate sour taste)

  7. Once at the table, serve a couple of spoons of lentils on top of the red mullet and pour a bit of soba tea. It will oxygenate flavors and complete the magic of uniting sea and land.


  • Red mullet (mid-to-large size)

  • Dry yuzu

  • Shiso leaves (green and purple)

  • Ustica lentils (or other small one – beluga should work)

  • Carrots

  • Onions

  • Olive oil

  • Black garlic

  • Sumac

  • Soba tea

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