Roast John Dory, alubias de Tolosa and pancetta

I visit Wales regularly to visit my close friends and family in Cardiff, and quite often we head straight to my favourite fishmonger as soon as I arrive. My eyes are always drawn to the gorgeous, but at the same time ugly, John Dory; it looks at me and says “cook me”! Once I bought one that was almost two kilos (over four pounds) – the fishmonger thought I was crazy (which I am), but after a very long lunch two of us finished the whole fish! The creaminess of the Tolosa beans makes them the perfect match for this dish.

Start by making the alubias de Tolosa. Put all of the ingredients in a large saucepan with 1.5litres of water (but don’t add any salt at this stage).

Bring slowly to the boil and cook for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat right down and cook very gently for 2 hours. When the beans are almost ready, add some salt and keep cooking slowly until they are tender but still holding their shape and the sauce is really thick.

When almost cooked, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F /Gas 3). Scatter the potatoes and garlic in the bottom of a large roasting tin. Place the John Dory on top, drizzle with plenty of olive oil and season well. Roast for 30–40 minutes until just cooked. Test by inserting a sharp knife into the flesh; when it pulls away from the bone easily, it’s done.

Meanwhile, fry the pancetta in a dry pan until crispy. Serve the John Dory, potatoes and garlic with the cooked beans scattered with the crispy pancetta.

4 x80Recipe taken from Basque: Spanish Recipes from San Sebastian & Beyond (Hardie Grant)

By José Pizarro

Serves 4


  • For the alubias de Tolosa
    500g alubias de Tolosa or turtle beans
    1 small onion, finely chopped
    5tbsp olive oil
    sea salt
  • For the John Dory
  • 200g waxy potatoes, sliced
    1 bulb garlic, cloves separated
    2 kg John Dory
    Olive oil to drizzle
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    150g pancetta, very finely chopped

Share this article

    Related posts

  • Smokey fishcakes with dill and horseradish mayonnaise

    Rachel Allen uses smoked haddock and smoked salmon for these delicious fishcakes, served with a sweet, hot and mustardy, Scandinavian-style mayonnaise

    read more

  • Fried flounder with braised chicory

    Claus Meyer’s recipe is essentially a traybake making it a perfect midweek meal. It’s straightforward to cook, but doesn’t compromise on flavour. A delicious plateful.

    read more

  • Crab Thermidor

    This variation on Mat Follas’ MasterChef-winning spider crab dish is not a true thermidor, as it uses cream, rather than a flour-based roux. “But I prefer it because of its wonderful flavour,” says Mat.

    read more