Friday 28 July 2017


Oven roasted whole brill

We live in the Wish area of Hove and a few hundred meters from the eastern end of Shoreham harbour. I recently discovered that "Wish" is a word deriving from Old English meaning a meadow or land liable to be flooded and read a fascinating history of the harbour which is now a thriving port 

I asked the fishmonger to clean and trim the fish.


1 whole Brill, about 1 - 2 kg, cleaned and trimmed 
2 sprigs of fresh oregano
2 bay leaves
1 lemon
Olive oil
75mls Dry white wine, dry sherry or dry vermouth
1 piece fresh ginger app 2-3 cms
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

* if you don’t have preserved lemons use the thinly pared peel of a fresh lemon or lime.


Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan oven)     

Make some diagonal incisions into the flesh of the fish. Take the preserved lemon, remove all the flesh and discard. Cut the peel into very thin slices. Slice the fresh ginger into thin matchstick strips and do the same with the garlic.  Insert the slivers of lemon, garlic and ginger into the slits in the fish and then season with salt** and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oven to 200C (Fan oven 180C)
Put the oregano bay leaves and some salt** and pepper in roasting tin with any remaining preserved lemon, garlic and herbs, reserving some to put in the body cavity of the fish.  If using fresh lemon, slice ½ lemon and add the slices to the tin.
Lay the fish on top of the oregano, bay and lemon and drizzle a little s olive oil over the skin.
Roast in the pre-heated oven for 10-12 minutes (15mins if it is a larger fish) Check that the fish is almost cooked and coming away from the bone.  Pour over the glass of wine and a squeeze of lemon juice over the fish and replace in the oven for 5 mins, a little longer if you want the skin crispy. (or crisp up for a couple of minutes under a hot grill). If you don’t want to eat the skin it will lift away from the flesh and the flesh will come away from the bone. You will have 4 good portions.

Put each serving of fish on a plate and pour over the juices from the tin.

Two of us ate three portions.  We saved the remaining portion to add to a seafood linguine dish the following day and boiled up the bones and remaining skin for a fish stock. 

**Go easy on the salt seasoning if using preserved lemons as they are very salty.

John Austin

Hove July 2017


Brill or turbot?

What's the difference between turbot and brill? About £3 - £4 a kilo.

Most chefs and cookery books suggest that the turbot is superior in flavour and the king of white fish and brill was once considered "the poor man's food". Well I was brought up a poor man but never encountered brill (but then the only fish in our house was cod, haddock or plaice, apart from sardines and salmon which came in a tin. We knew of skate and rock salmon (or Huss) from the chippie but it never crossed our threshold.

I don’t know what my Dad’s aversion was to rock salmon, but mine stems from my school days. I studied zoology for my A-levels and dogfish were a standard item for dissection, preserved in formaldehyde. I opted out of school but became reacquainted with the smell when I worked in a mortuary as a Pathology Laboratory Technician.  I’m sure dogfish are perfectly edible when fresh but I can’t look at them without being reminded of the slabs and the smell in the mortuary!

In happier times, I became acquainted with turbot in my late twenties in France - and a host of other fish, many found in British waters, that I had never come across - but it was another twenty years or more before I discovered the delights of brill, despite a plentiful supply off the English coast.

Brill (Rémol in Spanish and Barbue in French) is one of the most popular fish in Spain, especially in Galicia, Asturia and the Basque country. It is usually smaller than the turbot. (Just to add to the confusion over fish names, brill is called rodovalho in Portugal, almost the same as the Spanish name for turbot, rodaballo! So if you have eaten rodovalho in Portugal thinking it was turbot, think again.

Turbot and brill are both sinistral flatfish but brill has a smoother skin without the protuberances or “nails” that turbot has. In Turkey, brill is known as turbot without nails (çivisiz kalkan)

Any recipe for turbot will suit brill and vice versa. Turbot has the firmer flesh and whilst the turbotière was designed to poach whole turbot, larger fish are usually cut into steaks.  My usual recipes for brill are to cook itwhole, either roasted or baked in foil.