Whole baked turbot

Whole baked turbot

Serves 6

I’ve just had the food of my dreams. My friend Ivan asked us over to his garden for lunch. The deal was he’d get the wine and I’d bring the food. ‘I’ve got new spuds, though,’ he said excitedly.

The anticipation of 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. We never do 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 is 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 fancy pants, but one of the advantages of having a restaurant is that I can order lovely things and have them delivered. It’s annoying, I know.

When we arrived he’d already made a Tuscan bread salad then insisted on making a hollandaise for the turbot. I handed over the fish and all the responsibility. 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°C. This method is suitable for other flat fish too.

1 x 3kg turbot
200ml lightly salted water


Preheat the oven to 180°C.

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 your lightly salted water into a large roasting tin, then add the turbot. Add a few twists of pepper, then bake in the oven for 20 minutes before checking. A smaller fish will take less time – don’t be afraid to check.

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.

Serve with steamed tenderstem broccoli with hollandaise.

Front cover of Butter Boy by Paul Flynn - yellow cover with white letters and an icon of eyeglasses

From Butter Boy: Collected Stories and Recipes by Paul Flynn

Photograph by Harry Weir


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