Friday 28 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.

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