Bonhams Restaurant
Turbot charged

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 46, Spring 2016

Page 40

Bonhams Restaurant
Turbot charged

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 46, Spring 2016

Page 40

Bonhams Restaurant
Turbot charged

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 46, Spring 2016

Page 40

Bonhams Restaurant
Turbot charged

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 46, Spring 2016

Page 40

Bonhams Restaurant
Turbot charged

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 46, Spring 2016

Page 40

Bonhams Restaurant
Turbot charged

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 46, Spring 2016

Page 40

Bonhams Restaurant
Turbot charged

Bonhams Magazine

Issue 46, Spring 2016

Page 40

Tom Kemble Bonhams Restaurant's award-winning chef, explains why he fell for a fish – hook, line and sinker

Photography by Simon Wheeler

Turbot has been a most highly-prized fish since classical times. In one of his satires, Juvenal recounts how the Roman emperor, Domitian, called together his ruling council to advise him how to cook a huge specimen. One of the most sycophantic declined to recommend any cooking method, but declared that this mighty fish presaged a great victory for the emperor, while another thought it should remain whole until a suitable vessel could be made to cook it in.

Turbot can reach a length of more than 3ft, though the most common size is less than half that. Its delicious firm white flesh makes it one of the most expensive fish in the marketplace, but it is certainly worth it. I only really came to appreciate its depth of flavor when I went for lunch at Hedone, the Chiswick-based restaurant of Swedish chef Mikael Jonsson.

I had been working as a private chef in the Caribbean and had recently moved back to London. I was wondering where to go to next and feeling a little unenthusiastic about what London restaurants had to offer. Then I heard of this new produce-led restaurant and thought I would investigate further. Mikael invited me to lunch and cooked for me at the kitchen counter. He presented a turbot collar, which he cooked in a convection oven at low temperature with a little steam, and served with some roasted English ceps.

It was revelatory. The meatiness of the turbot and the fat you could suck from the collar bone, caveman-style, together with the earthy ceps produced a juxtaposition of flavors somewhere between land and sea. I ended up working with him the next day and stayed for more than a year.

For me the greatest pleasure lies with the versatility of this majestic fish. It works with sea vegetables, buttery sauces and shellfish, just as easily as it pairs with mushrooms, truffles and land vegetables. At Bonhams Restaurant, we cook turbot in different ways. We sometimes poach the fish very gently in a vinegar butter, which yields a fatty texture imbued with acidity. We also slow cook the fish in the oven at 62°C and finish it under the grill, brushed with butter. If we come across a turbot of exceptional quality, we consider aging it, something I learnt at Hedone. We have kept turbot whole and stored at 0°C for four to five days to develop its flavor. Combined with slow cooking, the texture and flavor are remarkable and the result is a pearlescent shine, known as à la nacre – after the French word for mother of pearl.

In the restaurant we try to buy the largest turbot we can get our hands on. They provide better yield and are also meatier. A 6kg turbot may not be feasible for the home cook, and if you are working with a small turbot, it is wise to cook the fish on the bone. Ask your fishmonger to divide it into tranches, so each guest will have both dark and white skin.
Perhaps the greatest and purest way of cooking turbot is at Elkano in the Spanish seaside town of San Sebastian. The fish is grilled slowly in a metal basket over charcoal and fileted at the table, served simply with salt, lemon and the fish's cooking juices. This is a restaurant that I dream of returning to someday. It is never quite the same when you attempt it on a barbecue during an English summer.

Tom Kemble is Head Chef at Bonhams' Michelin-starred Restaurant.

Bonhams Restaurant is open 9am - 5pm Monday - Friday for drinks and light refreshments; 12 - 2.30pm for lunch; from 7pm for dinner on Wednesday and Thursday, and from 1 March also on Friday.

Reservations: +44 (0) 20 7468 5868;
reservations@bonhams.com

Prize catch

Tom Kemble's pan-roasted tranche of turbot in beef dripping with Jersey Royals

Serves: 4-5

1 2-3kg turbot on the bone, divided into 4-5 tranches
8 English cucumbers
1kg Jersey Royal potatoes
500g unsalted butter
100ml Chardonnay vinegar
A bunch of dill
2 tbs beef dripping
Sprig of rosemary and thyme
2 cloves of garlic, skin on and crushed
1 small pot of whipping cream

Crushed cucumber
This can be done in advance and kept in the fridge for a few hours.
Peel six of the cucumbers, halve them and scrape the seeds out using a spoon. Reserve the skins for the beurre blanc. Grate cucumber thickly and salt lightly. Leave to stand in a colander for one hour. Using a clean cloth or muslin, squeeze the mixture, releasing the juice. To serve, mix the cucumber with some chopped dill and check the seasoning. Adjust if necessary.

Jersey Royals
Scrub the Jersey Royals with a clean green pan scourer. Cover them with cold water and add a pinch of salt. Bring up to a simmer and cook until tender – about 15-20 minutes – while you are cooking the fish and beurre blanc. Drain from the cooking water and add a generous lump of salted butter.

Turbot
In a non-stick frying pan, heat the beef dripping until almost smoking. Carefully place the tranches of fish, about four at a time, into the hot dripping on their white side, and turn the heat down. The skin should caramelize nicely and not burn. Turn the fish over after a few minutes and repeat on the dark side for a few minutes. Then add a few knobs of butter. This should start to foam if there is enough heat in the pan.

Add a crushed garlic clove and the sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Baste the fish with a large spoon, carefully moving the foaming butter over the fish. Remove the turbot from the pan using a slotted spoon and rest on a wire rack covered loosely with tin foil. The best way to test if the fish is cooked is to use a small skewer and pierce the turbot near the bone. Remove the skewer and place on your lip. It should feel warm to touch and the meat should just be coming off the bone. If it needs more time return the fish to the frying pan and baste again. Rest for a few minutes, during which you can gather the rest of your garnish.

Cucumber beurre blanc
The joy of this sauce is the balance between fat from the butter, acidity from the vinegar and iodine flavors from the cucumber. I use chardonnay vinegar, which is aromatic and slightly sweet. Make it just before you serve the fish.

Peel the remaining two cucumbers and reserve the skin. Using a spoon, scrape out the seeds and slice the cucumber finely. Heat a saucepan gently and add the cucumber. Cook for a few minutes and then add 1-2 tbs of the vinegar. Reduce the vinegar and cucumber for a few minutes and then add 2 tbs of cream. This will make the sauce more stable. Bring this up to a simmer and then on a low heat slowly whisk in the chilled butter, piece by piece. When you have whisked in half the remaining butter, add the cucumber skins by blitzing in with a hand blender. Pass this mixture through a sieve and return to a clean saucepan on a low heat. Add the rest of the butter slowly. Season with salt and check acidity. Add a splash more vinegar if required.

When everything is ready, season the fish with decent sea salt and serve with the warm Jersey Royals, crushed cucumber and a liberal dressing of beurre blanc.

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