King of fish takes centre stage

Trade at Billingsgate has been a little bit up and down this week starting quite slowly but becoming quite busy towards the end of the week.

With things settling down a bit around the coast we are at last beginning to see more good quality fish arriving and this week there has been a lot of excellent quality turbot finding its way on to the market. Often referred to in glowing terms as the “King of Fish”, the turbot is a sinistral (or for the uninitiated, a left-handed) flatfish. It is one of three common left-handed flat fish that are regularly landed, the others being brill and megrim.

All flat fish begin their lives as round fish, but as they evolve an eye pops on to the top surface and the fish then either swim to the right or to the left. Common right-handed flat fish are plaice, soles, lemon soles, etc. The turbot is a large round meaty textured fish which unfortunately for the general consumer is quite expensive, but as a special occasion treat there is nothing finer that comes from the sea. It is particularly coveted by the top London restaurants.

However, if your pocket does not quite stretch to the wild turbot there are some excellent quality farmed turbot coming from a Norwegian company that is using recirculation tanks in northern Spain. It is quite easy to distinguish farmed from wild when looking at the whole fish as the farmed variety are often discoloured on the underside. However, cooked up on the plate I would challenge anyone to tell the difference.

If turbot is too rich for the pocket there are still some excellent quality English herrings and sprats coming from the east coast around the Thames estuary. These are so fresh that they are arriving at the market still in rigor mortis. A really cost effective, nutritious treat packed full of beneficial omega 3s. Better still if you can find them hot smoked sprats, a real treat if served on toast in the same way as you might serve sardines.

For a nice picture story of the turbot’s journey from sea to plate, see this Guardian story here.

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