Turbot drive: Mark Hix cooks with one of his favourite fishes
It is one of the finest fishes to grace any plate, so treat the turbot with a bit of ceremony and buy it whole. You'll be doing the oceans a favour, too, says our chef.
A whole turbot is often slightly out of reach financially for a lot of people looking for a good-value fish for dinner – it's even out of reach for some restaurants.
Turbot is one of my favourite fish – I caught one once, off Jersey a few years back, and it was rather like landing a bag of gravel, as the seven-kilo fish gave up no fight whatsoever. It certainly wasn't as challenging as getting as many meals as possible out of an expensive flat fish.
However, getting the most out of a fish, especially an expensive one, is the way we should all be thinking nowadays. Just going for the easy option and buying prime, centre-cut portions isn't going to help with the ongoing problem of the ocean's depleting stocks of fish.
One of the ways around this is to buy and use the whole fish, whether it be an expensive flat fish like a turbot, or a bargain pollock or coley. You will be surprised how many meals you can cleverly knock up this way – plus you'll be doing your bit for the ocean.
How to tackle your turbot
1. Remove the head by cutting up as close to the gills as possible with a heavy chopping knife.
2. Remove the collar and gills and as much of the non-fleshy meat as possible; put to one side for the collar recipe, below.
3. With a heavy chopping knife, split the tail, then cut down the centre of the fish where the line is, chopping through the centre bone with the heel of the knife until you cut through where the head was.
4. With a pair of scissors, cut the fins away and remove the tail.
Barbecue-style turbot collar
This is a good and tasty way to use those bits of meat around the gills and head which are nice and glutinous and often get thrown away or end up in stock.
They will vary in size and the best thing to do is ask your fishmonger to save them for you, and even store them in the freezer. The Japanese love this cut – next time you eat Japanese, look out for it on the menu. You can serve this as a starter or a main course and it's great with a green, or even seaweed, salad.
600g turbot or other large flat fish collars
5-6tbsp ketjap manis or thick soy sauce
2tbsp vegetable or corn oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat a grill. Put the turbot collars in a bowl with the soy and oil, season lightly and mix well. Cook the collar for 4-5 minutes on each side, basting with any leftover soy and oil as it's cooking. Serve immediately.
Roast turbot with garlic shoots and scarlet elf cups
We discovered these little beauties a few years ago and have since started gathering scarlet elf cups ourselves down in Dorset – my chefs there are really getting quite competitive on the foraging front. They are one of the few mushrooms that grow in below-freezing conditions. I keep some inf the freezer – they cook up just as they do fresh. I'm doubting you will have any at hand so any wild or cultivated mushroom will do.
If you grow garlic at home you can use the young green shoots, or use wild garlic leaves; alternatively, some skinny spring onions will do.
4 pieces of turbot on the bone weighing about 250-280g each
A couple of handfuls of garlic shoots or wild garlic leaves
150g small wild mushrooms, cleaned
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
50-60ml olive oil
Preheat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Season the turbot and place in a roasting tray with the white skin up. Rub a little butter on the fish and spoon over a little oil. Roast for about 12-15 minutes, depending on the thickness, and basting every so often.
To serve, melt the remaining butter in a frying pan, add the mushrooms, season and cook for a minute or so until just tender, then toss in the garlic shoots and cook for another 20 seconds. To serve, place the turbot in warmed serving plates and spoon the mushrooms and shoots on top.
Turbot cheek and leek broth
In and around the head of a flat fish like turbot or brill or a large plaice are some great chunks of meat, including the cheeks themselves. If you are clever, you could ask your fishmonger if he has any turbot or brill heads for a soup – or even your cat!
1 large turbot head, plus any bones from the fish
2 leeks, trimmed and washed
1 small bay leaf
10 white peppercorns
1ltr fish stock (a couple of good cubes will do)
100ml dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
2tbsp chopped parsley (reserve the stalks for stock)
Roughly chop one of the leeks and wash well, then place in a saucepan with the turbot, bones, bay leaf, peppercorns, parsley stalks, fish stock and wine. Bring to a simmer and continue to simmer very gently for about 20 minutes, skimming every so often.f Remove the head and place on a plate; strain the stock through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean saucepan.
Finely shred the second leek into rings, wash well and drain. Once the turbot head is cool enough to handle, remove any bits of meat you can, including the cheeks.
Check the seasoning on the stock and re-season if necessary; bring back to a simmer, add the leeks and simmer for 2-3 minutes until they are just cooked, then add the turbot meat and parsley, simmer for another 30 seconds and remove from the heat.
Turbot chop and coconut curry
This is basically a similar cut to the roast turbot, but cut from the centre, so they look a bit chop-like when cooked.
4 pieces of turbot cut on the bone as above and weighing about 250g
A handful of coriander to serve
For the curry
4tbsp vegetable or corn oil
500ml fish stock
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 green chillies, trimmed and finely chopped
3 medium onions, peeled, halved and finely chopped
3cm-piece of cinnamon stick
The seeds from 6 cardamom pods
12 or so fennel seeds
1tbsp freshly-grated turmeric or ½tsp powder
2tsp mustard seeds
1tsp fenugreek seeds
1tsp ground coriander
½tsp garam masala
200ml coconut milk
4-5tbsp chopped coriander, plus some sprigs for garnish
Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan, season and quickly fry the turbot on both sides until lightly coloured, then remove from the pan and put to one side. Add the garlic, chilli, onions and all of the dried spices to the pan and cook on a low heat for about 6-7 minutes.
Add the fish stock, season, bring to the boil and simmer over a medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, add the pieces of turbot and the coconut milk and continue simmering for 7-8 minutes, then stir in the chopped coriander. Season to taste and serve. Serve with basmati rice.
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