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Fillet of red gurnard  with saffron potatoes, kohlrabi ‘slaw’ and bouillabaisse sauce


Christmas fayre is great and often the leftovers are better. Who doesn’t like turkey and cranberry sandwiches or fried bubble and squeak on Boxing day topped with a poached egg and the remains of the cheese board. All well and good but enough is enough so here is something completely different A simple but effective meal. Something a little lighter and yet still warming on a winter’s day. Packed full of flavour and with a little extra skill involved.


Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients as simpler alternatives can be used to good effect. See the chefs notes at the end.


Gurnard is a distinctive fish with a large head and big round eyes. It can be tricky to prepare as it has long spines around its neck. It is native to the eastern Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea and is common around the waters of the British Isles. It is at its best during late summer right through to the end of winter but early spring sees it enter its spawning season and so best avoided.


Bouillabaisse, the traditional fish stew from Marseilles, often contains Gurnard. It therefore makes a worthy sauce for this underused fish. The saffron and fennel seed provide colour and flavour reminiscent of Southern France. This sauce belongs in summer however by using fennel seed instead of fresh fennel we can cook it at this time of year and the flavour is magnificent.


Kholrabi is that funny ‘alien’ looking ball of a vegetable you find on the top shelf at supermarkets. It is generally light green with little antennae like shoots. Its name translates from German as ‘Turnip cabbage’ and that is a pretty good description of its flavour albeit a little sweeter. It can be lightly cooked or served raw.


Serves 4

For the sauce

  • Rapeseed oil 1 tblsp
  • Shallots 2 bulbs finely chopped
  • Garlic 1 bulb crushed and peeled
  • Red peppers 2 small roughly chopped
  • Fennel seeds 1 tsp
  • Tomatoes 1 kg roughly chopped
  • Orange 1 small fruit juiced
  • White wine/pernod 100 mls
  • Saffron 1 pinch
  • Good quality fish stock 1 litre


For the kohlrabi ‘slaw’

  • Kholrabi 200g
  • Winter greens or onions 100g
  • Carrot 100g
  • Fresh parsley 10g chopped
  • Rapeseed oil 50ml
  • Dijon mustard 20g
  • Capers 20g


For the potatoes

  • Waxy potatoes such as charlottes 1 Kg
  • Saffron


For the fish

  • Gurnard fillets 4 fillets skin left on
  • Rapeseed oil 50ml
  • Butter 20g


Make the sauce

  • Heat the oil in a pan and sweat the shallots, garlic, red peppers and fennel seeds without any colour.
  • Add the tomatoes, orange juice and alcohol. Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer.
  • Add the fish stock and the saffron and simmer to reduce by about a third.
  • Blend the sauce until very smooth and then pass through a fine sieve.
  • Season and reserve until needed.
  • Chefs note – Onions can replace the shallots and if serving in the summer replace half the onions and the seeds with fresh fennel and dill.


Make the kohlrabi slaw

  • Peel the kohlrabi and either grate or julienne.
  • Finely shred the greens or onions and julienne or grate the carrot.
  • Combine with the other ingredients, season and set aside.


Chefs note – any coleslaw type vegetables can be used if kohlrabi is unavailable and if this is being served in the summer try using fresh fennel.


Prepare and cook the potatoes

  • For a restaurant quality meal the chef can show off here and ‘turn’ the potatoes. This involves using a turning knife, a small vegetable knife with a curved blade, to shape the potatoes into little ‘barrels’. Traditionally turned potatoes have 7 sides but that is not vital. Alternatively the potatoes can served as they are but should be peeled and cut small.
  • Peel the potatoes and cut them onto smaller pieces or turn them – see above.
  • Soak the saffron in hot water then add to a pan of seasoned water enough to cover the potatoes.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer until just cooked.


Chefs note – an alternative to saffron here is to colour the water with a little turmeric.

Cook the fish and assemble

  • Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and then add the butter.
  • Cook the fish skin side first for 2 – 3 minutes, try to get the skin nice and crispy as this will help to stop it sticking to the pan. Carefully flip over and finish.
  • Place 3 potatoes in a pasta bowl, top with 1 fillet of gurnard per person skin side up.
  • Arrange the ‘slaw’ on top and pour a generous amount of sauce into the bowl.


Chefs note – Any type of white fish can be used instead of the gurnard.
Have some crusty bread ready to mop up the sauce!

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