Monday 28 November 2016


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.


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.


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

Friday 4 November 2016

CORVINA - Meagre, Drum, Croaker

Corvina roasted whole

Janet Mendel describes corvina as a bland tasting fish which benefits from a sharp sauce. In “Cooking in Spain” she has a recipe for Corvina en salsa de alcaparras (Meagre in caper sauce); the fish is baked in white wine and the sauce includes capers, blanched toasted almonds, spring onions, olive oil and garlic.  The recipe is one which I may try next time and she suggests it is also suitable for hake or grouper.
Alan Davidson (Mediterranean Seafood) suggests treating it as a rather large sea bass, and since I think fish is almost always better cooked whole, on the bone – and looks impressive at a dinner party, I decided to cook it roasted whole.  It weighed over 2kilos so I did ask the fishmonger to remove the head as I feared, correctly as it turned out, that it wouldn’t quite fit in the roasting tray with the head on.

We were only four for dinner.  Sylvi says that I underestimate how much fish people eat and as Alan Davidson recommends corvina as a fish that can be eaten cold, I wasn’t concerned that it was too big.
The advantage of corvina cooked on the bone is that it doesn’t have any small bones and it is easy to serve bone-free portions when cooked. 
There were some leftovers and tasting it the following day, I can confirm that it is an excellent fish to be served cold in a salad, perhaps with a garlic mayonnaise. The flesh is firm when cooked and even firmer when cold, almost with a chicken breast texture, so maybe a salad next time, but on this occasion I decided to make my version of Thai fishcakes.
When Faith and Sue were with us last year I baked Corvina with herbs, anis and lime wrapped in foil 

On this occasion I roasted it, uncovered.

1 Corvina weighing app 2 kilo
4 tbsp Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, in this slivers
Peel of one preserved lemon or thinly pared peel of a fresh lemon.
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 teaspoon of sumac

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C). Have the fish scaled, gutted and cleaned. Make four or five deep slashes on each side of the fish and sprinkle inside and out with sea salt (if using lemons preserved in salt, go easy on the salt; rub the fish with oil and sumac, and force slivers of garlic, strips of lemon and a few rosemary leaves into the slashes. 

Put the remaining sprigs of rosemary, any remaining garlic and lemon peel into the body cavity and place in a roasting dish in the  preheated oven for app 30-40 minutes,– the skin should be crispy and peel off easily and the flesh should be white and flaky.

Serve with any juices from the cooking, with a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon and garnished with fresh chopped parsley.

 John Austin

Santa Pola, Spain 
November 2016

Cooking in Spain – Janet Mendel –Santana