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

Saturday 17 May 2014

a recipe from Spain....


 For some reason, fresh Mackerel (Caballa) does not appear to be very popular in Spain, and is used mainly for canning.  But there are various other varieties of fish which are very similar in taste and appearance. Jurel  is very common in Spain and resembles Mackerel, though not of the mackerel family.  It is related to the Pez de Limon or Amberjack

Elizabeth Cass in Cooking in Spain says Jurel makes good eating, is preferable to mackerel and suggests frying or grilling. Alan Davidson in Mediterranean Seafood, however, suggests it is not as good as mackerel but easier to digest.


 I think mackerel needs an acid sauce such as lime, gooseberry or rhubarb to cut through the oiliness, or something with heat such as horseradish or chilli.  The recipe for the Salsa below is mine but the idea was borrowed from a recipe for mackerel by Tara Reddy of St Leonards in The Hastings and Rye Fish Cook Book (2)*.  Tara Reddy includes both soy sauce and honey in her salsa and omits the coriander, reserving this to be sprinkled over the fish when served.

This is my recipe for Jurel,  known as Horse Mackerel or Scad  but I am sure it would equally suit Caballa (Mackerel), Estornino (Spanish or Chub Mackerel), or Melva (Frigate Mackerel)

I bought 4 jureles locally for less than 2€

Ingredients - serves 2
1 or 2 Jurel per person depending on size of fish
1 - 2 limes
Olive oil
sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 red chilli
small bunch of fresh coriander
Sprig of fresh mint
light soy sauce (optional)
2 inch piece of ginger
2 spring onions

Clean the fish and leave whole. They have a distinctive lateral line which is quite spiny and can be removed either before or after cooking with a sharp pointed knife. I keep the heads on but you can remove before cooking if preferred. Sprinkle the fish with sea salt and black pepper and cook on lightly oiled griddle for 8-10 minutes turning once.**

Chop ginger, garlic and chilli and put in food processor with bunch of coriander (reserve some leaves for garnish) Add zest and juice of the lime(s) and  olive oil (3x volume of oil to lime juice - vary this according to your taste and add dash of sesame oil.  Whizz in a food processor - optionally add soy sauce to taste and then stir in two finely chopped spring onions. 

Serve the cooked mackerel with the salsa and sprinkle on a few leaves of chopped mint and coriander.

Cooked in Santa Pola May 2014

*The Hastings and Rye Fish Cook Book is compiled by Sally & Stewart Walton and Debi Angel and friends and published by SeaSaw books
and well worth the £5 price-tag  The authors are involved in a variety of creative activities in Hastings which can be found at

** In Spain I bought a multipurpose electric cooker – a PALSON Evelyn – to cook Paella.
It is a large non-stick frying/sauté pan with lid and I have found it excellent for cooking fish as it griddles and steams them at the same time, crisping the skin and keeping the flesh moist.

John Austin
13 May 2014
Santa Pola

POST SCRIPT - June 2015 - You don't have to go to Spain for horse mackerel. It is caught in British waters. Last week I visited the Fish Shack on Hove beach and they had horse mackerel - otherwise known as scad.
Kingsway, Hove, E Sussex

Fish Shack, Hove beach