Monday, 28 November 2016

IN PRAISE OF GURNARD

Gurnard - roast whole





Sad news in November - Trump won the US Presidential election, Leonard Cohen died and my local fishmonger's closed. Kevin has finally retired. I wish him and Aloma a long and happy retirement, but it is a sad loss for the Richardson Road local shopping area where we have an independent butcher, a local baker, an independent off-licence, an organic greengrocer, two very good coffee shops and a podiatrist - but sadly no longer a fishmonger. Kevin was my main supplier of Brill and he regularly had a local catch of gurnard.

Just by chance, I was passing the fish counter in Tesco this week and there, on the counter, were two gurnard, caught in the North Sea/English Channel - how much more interesting than the imported farmed sea bass and sea bream sitting alongside!  So they had to be bought.

Rick Stein, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver have all contributed to the wider availability of gurnard by advocating its benefits both in flavour and sustainability. Unfortunately this publicity, like that for dabs, has also contributed to its price rise!

English fishermen traditionally returned gurnard to the deep or used it as lobster bait, whereas across the channel it was prized and a regular ingredient of bouillabaisse.

In his River Cottage Fish Book, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall favours pot-roasting in a robust fish stew 

Jamie Oliver uses gurnard in his fish pie and there are various recipes, including pot-roasting, on the Jamie Oliver Forum

Richard Corrigan reveals in the Guardian that gurnard is one of his favourite fish dishes and has a recipe for whole roast gurnard with parsnip, carrot and coriander mash  

I decided to roast mine whole, which usually takes about 15 minutes. In earlier posts I suggested recipes for pan fried gurnard and gurnard linguine

Gurnard has a mild, sweet flavour but will take strong accompaniments.

I had the fish scaled and gutted and the sharp spinal fins removed.  The fishmonger left the "wings"  and "legs" on, however,

and I removed these with a sharp pair of scissors.  These are not really wings or legs but are appendages used to swim and walk on the bottom of the seabed.

Ingredients

2 whole gurnard
sprig of fresh rosemary
peel of a preserved lemon
2 tomatoes quartered
1 sweet red or yellow pepper
4 cloves of garlic
olive oil

*the Jerusalem artichokes are not essential to the dish but I had some available and they go so well with the fish - you could try parsnip, swede or other root vegetable.

Method

Pour a little olive oil in a roasting dish, add tomatoes and pepper cut into quarters and 2 peeled cloves of garlic. Make sure vegetables are thinly coated in oil and place in oven at 180C (160C fan oven) for 15 minutes.


Season the fish inside and out with salt and pepper and add a clove of garlic, a sprig of rosemary and the peel of a quarter of a preserved lemon (flesh removed and peel well washed to remove excess salt) to the body cavity,  After the tomatoes and pepper have been roasting for 15 minutes, add the fish to the roasting dish, drizzle with a little more oil and cook for a further 15 minutes.  Check that the fish is cooked - the flesh should be firm and white and coming away from the bone,



I served the fish with lemon mashed potatoes (mashed potatoes to which a dessert spoon of chopped preserved lemon peel had been added) and the roast tomatoes, peppers and Jerusalem artichokes. I added a few steamed mange tout (as much for appearance and colour as for taste).


John Austin

Hove - November 2016

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