This is a recipe at the heart of what thrills me about cooking with live fire and seafood. This cook has been on my list for a while and has been inspired by Brat Restaurant, Chris ‘Foodgasm’ Roberts and Tom Bray, who supplied the turbot cage used in this cook. Other inspirations in the dish have come from discussions with Andy Knight who has a fantastic professional background including michelin starred kitchens and who gave me the idea behind what turned into the oyster and wild garlic butter in this dish.
This dish was accompanied by oysters and charred leeks both cooked off in the embers and finished with the fish. The dish represents a whole host of seasonal ingredients including the jersey royal potatoes served with it. As an alternative to turbot, you can also use brill, which would be slightly less expensive and is equally as tasty. This fish used in the cook was around 2.5 kg in weight before preparation.
The fish, oysters, wild garlic and smokey leeks are a match made in heaven and whether you try this as a whole dish or pick elements of it to cook you will not be disappointed with the flavours here, please try this one, I was very happy with this cook.
- 1.5-2.5 kg (or larger) whole turbot/brill gutted, trimmed and cleaned
- 4-6 medium leeks whole, green ends trimmed
- 6 fresh oysters
- 300g softened unsalted butter
- 100g wild garlic leaves
- sea salt for seasoning
- black pepper for seasoning
- Traeger fire pit
- Turbot cage
- Long tongs
- Heatproof gloves
- Oyster knife
- Instant read thermometer (Thermapen 4 or similar)
I used my Traeger fire pit for this cook but equally this could be cooked on any live fire set up using a grill grate and the turbot cage. I built the fire using silver birch initially using a stack of eight 10” logs adding four to six more logs to create and large area of hot embers with no flames. The embers were moved around to create a U-shaped area giving a cool zone at one end where the handle of the turbot cage would be but also a central space the approximate size of the fish where the there was no embers. The embers in this shape provide a radiant heat to cook the fish in the centre area. If the fire dies a little re-arrange the embers in to a central spot and cook directly over this using the remaining heat to finish the fish off. You will start with what looks like a lots of wood but as it burns down you will create a smaller volume of wood embers for cooking over.
Oyster and Wild garlic butter
Blanch the wild garlic leaves in boiling water for 1-2 minutes then chill in ice cold water then roughly chop. Shuck one oyster and retain the meat and liquid from the shell. Place the butter, garlic leaves, oyster (meat and retained liquid) into a food processor and blend together until smooth and evenly chopped and distributed. Season to taste with sea salt. Place this mixture onto a sheet of cling film roll this up into a cylinder shape holding both ends of the cling film tighten this until you have an even cylinder with no air pockets. Set this up in the fridge. You can, as I did here, make a second batch without the oyster. Once used for this dish freeze any remaining to be used as needed at a later date. To serve cut into thin discs which will melt over your food on the plate.
This is simplicity itself, just place the leeks into the hot embers for 4-5 min each side until the outside is fully charred and they appear to have started to soften. Wrap them in foil and place on the edge of the fire to steam and soften through fully and fully develop the smokey flavour notes. To serve remove from the foil and pull off the charred outer layers revealing the clean softened centre of the leeks inside, cut off the very ends and serve.
Again a simple part of the dish as the oysters are placed with the flat part of the shell facing up directly into the hot embers of the fire. They will start to bubble and steam then the shell will pop open or loosen. At this point lift them onto a grill level to keep warm. Open shells and place in little wild garlic butter inside them to melt and finish them off. Serve these in the shell.
The fish will be already prepared however, dry the skin with kitchen roll and place in the lightly oiled turbot cage seasoning with salt. Place the turbot in the cage onto the grill grate over the hot embers of the fire for 5 minutes per side then check the internal temperature. Continue to cook and turn every 3-5 minutes until you have an internal temperature of 65°c plus in the thickest part of the fish and the skin has gone charred and crispy. This cook took 25-30 minutes over the heat being produced by the fire I had, each fish and fire will vary this cooking time however, the method remains the same. The fish will be better for a slower cook using radiant heat allowing the collagen in the fish to soften making it juicy and tender, a great way to cook a whole fish.
To serve remove the fish from the turbot cage using a sharp knife to release any skin which may have stuck placing initially onto a board to take the fish off the bone. First take away the edge bones with a sharp knife pushing down and away from the fish on both edges. Then cut down the backbone removing the fillet as whole as possible from the main bones on either side. This can be done either to serve or at the table. Place discs of the oysters and wild garlic butter on the fish allowing it to melt.