Paul Flynn: Fish baked on the bone is a wonderful, simple thing

Baked turbot and Tuscan bread salad meant we almost forgot about the you know what

Turbot needs no gilding and the cooking time all depends on the size

Turbot needs no gilding and the cooking time all depends on the size

 

I’ve just had the food of my dreams. A friend asked us over to his garden for lunch. The deal was he’d get the wine and I would bring the food. “I’ve got new spuds though,” he said excitedly. The anticipation for the coming of the new season potatoes is real, in the country anyway.

At home we binge on them for a full week before we tire of them, never doing anything fancy just a simple steam, then a layer of butter then some salt.

Our lunch was a classy one and my friend is one of the best cooks I know. I’m not calling him a chef. A chef is taught and the cooking often strained. A cook is natural, instinctive, in harmony with the food. I’ve always wanted to be a cook.

To do the spuds justice I brought a whole turbot. You can curse me for being a name dropping fancypants but one of the advantages to having a restaurant is that I can order lovely things and have them delivered.

When we arrived, he’d already made a Tuscan bread salad then insisted making a hollandaise for the turbot.

I handed the fish and all the responsibility over. This doesn’t happen very often so I settled in and had some wine. It was a perfect day, we almost forgot about the you know what.

Fish cooked on the bone is a wonderful thing and nothing to be afraid of. It’s the simplest of recipes. Turbot needs no gilding. The cooking time all depends on the size. I had a whopper and it took 25 minutes at 180 degrees. This method is suitable for other flat fish also.

I’m a bit weird. I loathe regular broccoli but love tenderstem. This is my favourite way of cooking and eating it, although when in a hurry at home I’ve often chucked the bag of broccoli straight into the microwave for two minutes, and it works.

A Tuscan bread salad is a staple of our summer. It’s also brilliant as a starter or light lunch with some mozzarella, feta or goat’s cheese. You can buy roasted peppers for a quick cheat.

WHOLE BAKED TURBOT

Turbot needs no gilding and the cooking time all depends on the size
Turbot needs no gilding and the cooking time all depends on the size

Serves six
Ingredients
1 x 3 kg turbot
200ml lightly salted water
A few twists of black pepper

Method
1 Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2 Get your fishmonger to trim the head and the skirt of the fish, then to make an incision along the outside of the fillets and across the tail. This allows the skin to be lifted easily when cooked, to expose the flesh.
Pour the water into a large roasting tray then place the turbot on top. Add a few twists of pepper and bake for 20 minutes before checking.
4 A smaller fish will take less time, don’t be afraid to check.
5 The turbot is ready when the flesh is creamy white, and lifts from its central bone with ease. A slight touch of pink near the bone is expected and acceptable.

STEAMED TENDERSTEM BROCCOLI AND HOLLANDAISE SAUCE

Serves six
Ingredients
For the hollandaise:
4 free-range egg yolks
Juice of 1 lemon
A pinch of caster sugar
Salt and white pepper
300g melted warm butter

For the tenderstem broccoli:
30ml olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
A knob of butter
2 packets tenderstem broccoli (400g)
150ml water
Salt and pepper

Method
1
Boil a saucepan of water then place it on a kitchen towel to stabilise it.
2 Put the egg yolks into a largish bowl on top of the saucepan, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.
3 Add the lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper, then whisk over the steaming water for two to three minutes, until the egg yolks start to thicken.
4 Slowly drizzle the melted butter into the egg little by little, making sure it amalgamates all the while. I like to add the milk solids from the butter, it’s full of flavour. Set the hollandaise aside, covered, in a warm place.
5 For the broccoli, gently colour the garlic in the olive oil. When the garlic turns golden, add the butter to the oil to cool it down and stop the garlic getting brown and bitter.
6 Add the broccoli and the water to the pan, season and cover. This can all be done ahead of time.
7 When ready to serve, bring the broccoli to a rapid boil and cook for three minutes or so depending on the thickness of the broccoli stalks.
8 The water will evaporate and cook down into a garlicky emulsion that will coat the broccoli like a dream.  

TUSCAN BREAD SALAD

Serves six
Ingredients
Half a loaf of ciabatta, torn into chunks
150ml olive oil
2 red peppers
2 yellow peppers
500g cherry vine tomatoes or other ripe tomatoes
1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
A splash of red wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
8 salted anchovies finely chopped (optional, but lovely)
15 large green olives, roughly chopped
10 leaves of basil, torn
Salt and pepper

Method
1
Preheat your oven to 185 degrees Celsius.
2 Put the bread into a roasting tray and drizzle with a little of the olive oil. Roast for 10 minutes or so, until golden and crunchy.
3 Place the peppers on another tray, drizzle with a little more oil, then roast for 20 minutes or so, until soft and slightly charred.
4 Cut the tomatoes in half and put them in a large bowl.
5 Place the onion in a sieve and pour some boiling water on top to soften it a little, then add to the tomatoes, along with the bread.
6 When the peppers are cool, peel, deseed and chop them, reserving any juice which you will sieve and add to the salad. 
7 Mix together the garlic, vinegar, honey, anchovies, olives and the remaining olive oil. Season, pour over the salad and add the torn basil. 

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