Poissons a la Nicoise

Serve Poissons a la Nicoise (pwah-sohn ah lah nee-swahz) with peppery buttered rice and, to follow, a green salad. The red mullet should be quite small as two are allowed per person. If you cannot find very small fish, use six medium-sized fish.

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 lb. tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

8 oz. black olives, stoned

2 lemons, cut into

12 slices

12 small red mullet, cleaned and scaled but with the heads and tails left on

In a very large frying-pan, heat the oil over moderate heat. When the oil is hot, add the tomatoes, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes or until the sauce is very thick.

Add the olives and lemon slices and stir well. Transfer half of the mixture to another large frying-pan. Place six fish in each pan and turn them over in the sauce until they are well coated.

Cover the pans and cook, turning the fish occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes or until the flesh flakes easily when it is tested with a fork.

Remove the pans from the heat. Re-move and discard the bay leaf and serve.

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