Monday 19 May 2014


Gurnard is a common fish in Spain and is increasingly available in the UK.  It is a useful addition to fish stews but I usually roast it in the oven wrapped in foil with herbs, lemon and seasoning. Recently, however,  I saw a recipe for Gurnard Pasta by Russell Field of Hastings in the Hastings & Rye Fish Cook Book (2) and as a lover of Gurnard and of seafood pasta, decided to do my own recipe.

Gurnard are recommended by chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as a sustainable alternative to popular, overfished varieties.  In"The River Cottage Fish Book” , Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests a recipe for Pot Roasted Gurnard. I usually cook gurnerd in the oven, wrapped in foil with lemon, garlic, herbs and seasoning. Often I would use ginger and sumac.

Since a number of celebrity chefs, such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver have championed the cause of sustainable fishing, the range of varieties of fish on sale in supermarkets has increased and so has price.  However, fish such as Gurnard, Dabs, Megrim Sole etc are still much lower in price than more popular varieties and remain very good value.  I bought two reasonably sized red gurnard in Morrisson’s last week for £1.98! I used them for the following recipe.

Russell Field's recipe is based on a tomato sauce and does not use pimentón or peppers but does add freshly crushed garlic to the final sauce.  I will try his recipe some time but I wanted to give it a bit of Spanish flavour so here is my version.


1 Gurnard (cleaned)1
1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic
4 ripe chopped tomatoes
1 medium red chilli (optional)2
1 tsp paprika/ pimentón 3
1 red pepper


Gently fry the onions in olive oil to soften, do not let brown.  Add the chopped garlic and chopped or sliced pepper (and one chopped medium hot red chilli) When softened add the chopped tomatoes and a teaspoon of pimentón, dulce or picante whichever you prefer and some shredded basil leaves and continue cooking gently for 5 minutes.

Pour sauce into a saucepan with close fitting lid large enough for the whole gurnard.  Stir in a glass of red wine and place the whole fish on top. Put the lid on and simmer for 20 minutes.

Take off heat and remove the fish. Make sure you don't lose any sauce!  I left the sauce as it was but if you prefer a smooth sauce you could liquidise it in a food processor at this stage.

When the fish is cool enough to handle, remove all the flesh, ensuring that it is bone-free and put in a separate bowl.  When this has been done, check the fish again for bones and when you are satisfied that you have removed them all, add the fish to the sauce and reheat gently.

Meanwhile cook the pasta of your choice – I used linguine.  When the pasta is cooked, al dente, do not drain but lift out and stir into the sauce.  The water adhering to the pasta will make the sauce creamier.  Sprinkle with chopped coriander leaves and serve with a fresh green salad.


1 Usually fishmongers and supermarkets in UK will sell mainly Red Gurnard (Arete in Spain), but Spanish markets frequently have other varieties and you could use the larger Bejel  (Tub Gurnard) which is often drier flesh than Red Gurnard when cooked so lends itself to this method of cooking. Rubio or Borracho (Streaked Gurnard) is popular in Spain and north Africa, often cooked in a tomato sauce. Armado or Malarmat  (Armed Gurnard), and other smaller gurnard are excellent for and probably best left for fish stews.

2 I like seafood pasta to have a bit of heat and use a medium hot red chilli and a teaspoon of  hot paprika.  If you do not want so much heat, omit the chilli and use sweet paprika

3 Whether you are using hot paprika, pimentón picante  or sweet paprika, pimentón dulce, I would recommend using Spanish pimentón de la vera  for its smokey flavour.

John Austin
16 May 2014

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