Friday 27 January 2017

MEGRIM SOLE - (1) What's in a name?


MEGRIM also known in UK as Cornish Sole, Torbay Sole, Witch, Sail-Fluke, Fluke or Whiff 

Sadly Megrim rarely appears in our fishmongers in the UK although it is found in English waters, especially around Cornwall.  I have seen it occasionally in Morrison's and Tesco and is usually reasonably priced. Its praises have been sung by the likes of Rick Stein, so if it's cheap and sustainable why do we not see it more?

Although related to the Brill and Turbot (it is a sinistral fish), it cannot compare in taste or texture with these but, if cooked well, it can stand its own with Lemon Sole and most other flat fish and is a quarter of the price.

I read somewhere that Cornish fishermen used to throw them back as there was no market in the UK and now most catches are sold to the continent!

In Spain it is known as Gallo (which is a little confusing as John Dory is also known as Gallo in some areas, including Catalonia and Valencia, rather than its usual name Pez de San Pedro). If you find Gallo on the menu in restaurants it is likely to be John Dory and not Megrim,

Megrim is also known by regional/national names in Spain such as Lliseria, Palaia and Cappela. The French word for Megrim is Cardine.

There are plentiful supplies of Megrim in the eastern Atlantic off the coasts of France, Spain and Portugal and some of the catch I have seen in Spain came from France, but it is also found in the western Mediterranean, and is landed in Santa Pola - those pictured above were bought in Santa Pola in January 2016 and I recently bought a large one in Elche for less than 4€ a kilo.

I have posted a recipe for whole pan-fried Megrim

John Austin

Santa Pola, January 2017

MEGRIM SOLE - (2) Recipes

Megrim Sole - whole pan-fried

Last year I bought a couple of Megrim Sole in Santa Pola

Usually, I would roast or bake in the oven in a foil parcel as I did with the ones above which I cooked with sumac, garlic, oregano and tomatoes.  this takes about 15 minutes at 200C or 180C with a fan oven.  You can open the foil parcel for the last 5 minutes cooking. Many recipes suggest cooking with butter and lemon and maybe tarragon or thyme and I have also cooked it successfully at at home with lemon and ginger.

Roast Megrim with sumac. oregano, garlic and cherry tomatoes 

Previously,  I had also cooked Megrim a la plancha with sumac, fennel and garlic

Megrim a la plancha with sumac, fennel and garlic

On this occasion, I decided to try pan-frying whole with preserved lemons and fresh oregano - mainly because I had a ready supply of both.


1whole Megrim Sole
1teaspoon sumac
Peel of half a preserved lemon
2 cloves garlic (cut in thin slivers)
Pepper and salt to season (if using preserved lemons, less salt is needed)
1 dessertspoon chopped fresh oregano
Olive oil


My fishmonger cleaned and trimmed the fish

Remove the flesh from the preserved lemon and discard. Wash excess salt from the peel and finely slice (if you don't have preserved lemons use the thinly pared peel of a fresh lemon. If using preserved lemons season very sparingly with salt as the lemons will be quite salty.

Make some slashes in the skin of the fish. Rub the fish all over with with a mixture of olive oil, sumac and oregano. Insert slivers of lemon and garlic in the slashes.  Put any remaining oregano, lemon and garlic in the body cavity.

Add a little olive oil to the frying pan and fry the Sole for 4-5 minutes on each side.

Just before it has finished cooking add half glass of white wine, let it bubble away for a few seconds and then remove the fish to a serving dish. Let the wine continue to cook mixing with the juices in the pan, spoon over the fish and serve with creamy mashed potatoes and spinach or green beans.

In Spain we often serve fish with grilled or roasted Italian peppers (these are very common and very cheap in Spain but I rarely see them in England).

John Austin

Santa Pola, January 2017

Thursday 26 January 2017


  PEBRELLA - wild mountain thyme

I cannot believe that in all the years I have been visiting Spain I had not seen or heard of Pebrella until last week, when I saw it among the dried herbs in a supermarket in Santa Pola.

I learned that pebrella (thymus piperella) is a member of the thyme family and is an indigenous variety of wild thyme which grows exclusively in the mountains around Murcia, Alicante and south of Valencia. The flavour is described as a combination of thyme, oregano and savoury and is used mainly with meat dishes and for marinated olives and cheese. If found fresh it can be added to salads.

It's name appears to come from "pebre" or pepper, and it is stronger and more "peppery" in taste than common thyme.

I'm taking some back to England but wonder if anyone else has come across it.

John Austin
Santa Pola, January 2017