Grilled whole turbot with coriander sauce by Valentine Warner

Posted by David Rippington on

Just because the leaves are falling, bringing a new autumn scent to the nose, the arrival of the meaner months is not reason enough to now ignore the barbeque.

NO! My charcoal will stay aglow throughout the bitter chill and snow, year round and into the return of warmer rays.

With its thick skin and firm flesh, this grand flatty is superb for the barbecue, its exquisite flesh needing only the simplest of dressings, if any. There are subtle differences in taste between the meat from the white side, which has seen no sun, and the meat from the upper dark-skinned side, a difference in taste much celebrated by Basque cooks, their charcoal grills aglow outside many a sea- facing establishment.

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe from The Good Table by Valentine Warner, (Mitchell Beazeley 2011).

Wine Pairing: Domain De Vauroux Chablis Premier Cru

Serves 4


1 whole sustainable turbot (about 1kg), gutted and de-gilled

a splash of sunflower oil

2 dessertspoons flaked sea salt

a little smoked paprika (optional)

Coriander sauce

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

½ teaspoon flaked sea salt

35g coriander leaves, very finely chopped

4 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil

juice of ½ medium lemon


Get the barbecue going and then attend to the coriander sauce. Gently toast the coriander seeds over a medium–low heat in a frying pan, swirling them often so that they do not burn. When you smell their fragrance, or begin to hear them pop, tip them into a pestle and mortar or spice grinder and roughly grind the seeds with the salt. Put in a mixing bowl. Put the coriander leaves with the olive oil into a blender and blitz until very smooth. You may need to remove the lid and push the coriander down a few times. Tip into a small bowl. Only stir the lemon juice about 10 minutes before using the sauce in order to avoid discoloration

Just before you want to cook the turbot, lie it flat and wipe all moisture from each side until it is as dry as possible – a clean tea towel is best for this.

NOTE: THIS DRYING IS VERY IMPORTANT as wet fish laid upon hot metal will be sure to stick. Use scissors to snip off half the tail and cut the skirt fins from each side as this will also prevent the chances sticking. Rub the smallest dot of sunflower oil over each side of the fish before salting heavily; the salt will not season the fish but help raise it from the grill bars. Be generous as while some salt will naturally fall off excess can be brushed off after cooking

The grill should be set about 18cm from the charcoal.

When the embers glow orange and white, lay the fish, dark skin-side down, in the centre of the grill and cook for approximately 7-8 minutes. To test whether done, poke a small sharp knife into the thickest meat behind the head. It should slide in while retaining only the slightest resistance very near the bone

Do not prod unnecessarily while cooking. Turn the fish with the aid of a large metal spatula and cook on the white side for approximately 5-6 minutes. Be very careful to keep it in one piece, if the skin sticks a little resulting in small these are of no great matter. Lift the turbot on to a large platter and, if you like, dust the crispy skin with smoked paprika.

Artfully streak over some of the dressing and serve the rest alongside the fish. Serve the fish whole, for people to pull apart at the table, taking the flesh off the bone using two table knives.

Recipe from The Good Table by Valentine Warner, (Mitchell Beazeley 2011).

Latest book, The Consolation of Food, by Valentine Warner (Pavillion Books 2019)

Photography by, Jonathan Lovekin

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