Dabs are one of the fish species that currently is often chucked back into the sea by trawlers – dead, as there’s not a lot of demand for it. A campaign to increase it’s popularity seems to be working, and I found these today in a local fishmongers. They were £1.90 for the two. They’re a flat fish, similar to lemon sole. Well worth trying. This recipe is very frugal, using the cheap dabs, and the free wild garlic. Only the Riverford double cream I used could be seen as a luxury – but with the small amount needed, it’s a good choice.
For a starter for two people
4 garlic leaves for wrapping the fish
A bunch of parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons double cream
1 medium tomato, skin removed (I used Isle of Wight)
Half a glass of dry white wine
Half a red onion
Fillet the dabs to get both the bigger top fillet and the thinner lower one. Ask your fishmonger to do it if you’re not sure.
Lay out some parchment paper, about 20 inches. Lay 5 leaves of wild garlic, each overlapping the other slightly, at the beginning of the parchment. Lay the fish in the opposite direction. Stack the four fillets with salt and pepper and some blobs of butter between. Use the parchment to help you roll the fish and garlic leaves into a ballotine. Twist the end like a Christmas cracker, or tie with some string.
Put aside and make the sauce.
Wash the bones in cold water to remove any blood. Soften the shallots in a little olive oil and butter over a low heat. Add the fish bones to the mixture. Add the tomato and continue to heat. Cook together to continue to amalgamate for a few minutes.
Add a half glass of dry white wine and cook off the alcohol. Add half a glass of water (4 oz approx). Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes.
While this happening, steam the fish. Steam the fish ballotines in a wooden Chinese steamer, or whatever steaming method you have to hand. 15 minutes or so.
Back to the sauce. While the fish is steaming, pass the sauce through a sieve.
Either wash the pan out, or grab a new pan. Simmer the stock/sauce down, and add juice of 1/4 lemon. Season with black pepper and salt.
Drop in the cream, increase the heat a little, check seas0ning, drop in a knob of butter, mix in, then with the heat off, stir in the parsley.
In the meantime, slowly caramelise a couple of slices of red onion for a garnish.
To serve. Unwrap the fish and cut into two cylindrical shapes. Pour around the sauce and garnish with a few pieces of caramelised red onions.