If I was properly cheffy this would have been turbot with a tomato consommé but after straining the tomato broth I baulked at the further faff involved of stirring in egg whites to clarify it. If you have higher standards, go ahead, knock yourself out. Although mine was a bit cloudy it tasted amazing: deeply, intensely tomato-y.
I did want to do the turbot proud though. This is to my mind the prince of fish, up there with wild salmon and sea trout. My knee-jerk reaction was to make a rich beurre blanc but mindful of the calories and also wanting something fresher and more springlike, I opted for this. I didn’t regret it.
I do have one caveat though: I made the tomato broth with the last of my home-grown tomato and basil sauce from the freezer. I’ve given a version here using good-quality tinned tomatoes but to be honest, this is probably a recipe you’d want to book-mark until fresh, sweet, full-flavoured tomatoes are back in season.
Don’t throw the tomato pulp away when you make the broth as it will make the basis for another soup or stew or a very good pizza topping.
Turbot with Tomato Broth and Spring Vegetables
2 good-sized fillets of turbot
1 tbsp oil and 50g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-4 baby leeks
A double handful of fresh or frozen peas
A double handful of baby broad beans, podded
A few sprigs of parsley or basil to garnish
For the broth:
500 ml home-made tomato and basil sauce, 1 kg fresh tomatoes or 3 tins of Italian chopped tomatoes
250 ml tomato juice
100 ml white wine
Plus (if you’re not using pre-made tomato sauce):
1 garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 tspn salt
1 tspn caster sugar
Large bunch of basil, leaves picked and torn
To make the broth from scratch, put all of the ingredients, reserving half the basil, into a saucepan and cook very gently for 30-40 minutes with the lid off until the shallot is soft and the flavours have melded. Add the remaining basil and check the seasoning. If you’re using pre-made tomato sauce, put it in a pan with the tomato juice and wine and cook gently for about 20 minutes.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes then whizz with a stick blender (or in batches in a liquidiser) and strain through a muslin-lined sieve into a deep bowl. Don’t press it through as you want it to be as clear as possible. It could take 6-7 hours or you can leave it overnight. Keep the pulp for another recipe, check the seasoning in the broth again and set aside.
Cut the cleaned leeks into batons the same width as the turbot fillets and steam until tender but holding their shape. Drain very thoroughly and keep warm.
Blanch the broad beans and peas (you don’t need to do this if the peas are frozen, just defrost them), run cold water over them to arrest them cooking further and set aside at the back of the stove. My beans were so young and fresh they stayed bright green but if yours aren’t, you may want to double-pod them. Just nick the skins with your fingernail and slip them off.
Just before you want to eat, season the turbot fillets on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oil on a moderate heat in a frying pan big enough to take both fillets. Fry the fish flesh-side down for 2 minutes, then carefully turn it over and cook for another minute.
Add the butter to the pan and turn the fillets flesh-side down again and cook for a further minute to give them a golden colour. The turbot flesh should be pearly and just cooked. Allow to rest for 1-2 minutes (it’ll continue to gently cook in its own heat) then remove the skin.
Gently re-heat the tomato broth until it’s piping hot but not boiling. Pour an inch or so into two warmed bowls, arrange a line of three or four leek batons in the centre and sit the turbot on top. Spoon some peas and beans into the hot broth, garnish with a sprig of parsley or basil and serve.