With Simon Rhodes, of the Lobster Pot Fishmongers in Wood Street Food Hall
Gurnard are the ugly sisters of the fish world that always get commented on by customers when I have them on the counter.
They come in three types; red, grey and yellow (tubs). They have flat bellies and wing-like fins. They don’t grow very big, but boy, they are tasty. Did I mention they were ugly too?
These fish are bottom feeders around our shores. This does not mean that your derrière is at risk when skinny-dipping in Bournmouth but that they use their wings to stir up food from the seabed.
Once a by-catch and used as bait by lobster fishermen, they are now sought-after by top chefs.
Normally a by-catch is not a very tasty alternative to overfished species, but the gurnard is a very tasty equal and classically used in a bouillabaisse.
Watch out, as I suspect the gurnard will become as popular as the once-cheap monkfish.
Unlike the monkfish, the gurnard has a soft, sweet, delicate flavour that will stand on its own. These fish are best filleted and the flesh becomes bright white when cooked.
My favourite recipe is a fillet of gurnard risotto.
First, sweat some shallots in a pan until soft then add a clove or two of garlic. Then stir in the arborio rice, add a few glugs of white wine and reduce.
Then, as with all risottos, gradually add the stock (fish stock in this case) until the rice is soft and creamy. Stir in some cooked peas, grill the fillets of gurnard (skin side down) and season.
Stir in some cream and fresh parsley and grate some parmesan over the top.
Finally add the fillets of gurnard to the top of the risotto with a wedge of lemon and serve. Simple, yet effective.
You can buy a whole gurnard for around a fiver, which means it is a good, cheap midweek meal or a cracking starter if deep-fried in tempura batter.
So, eat more gurnard now before it becomes a ‘I remember when gurnard was a cheap meal’ fish, just like the monkfish.