One of the largest known species of fish in the sea, Halibut has a laterally compressed oval body that’s a speckled greenish-dark brown on its upper-side and pure snow-white on its lower-side. With a large mouth and both eyes located on its dominant coloured side this humongous fish is unlikely to win any marine beauty pageants but it’s what’s inside that counts!
Mild and sweet with a firm and thick meaty flesh – Halibut is quite literally melt in your mouth goodness. It’s a source of high-quality protein and a slightly more elegant alternative to cod or haddock due to its more distinctive flavour. It’s most commonly found in the cold and deep waters of the Pacific, North Atlantic and North Sea. However, it is now also being successfully farmed making it a more sustainable option. When buying Halibut, you can assess quality and freshness by looking for a firm touch, sparkling flesh, clear eyes, intact fins and bright red gills.
Perceived as the ‘steak of seafood’ and noted for its versatility in the kitchen – the possibilities with Halibut are endless. Due to its leanness it has a reputation for drying-out quickly if it’s cooked for too long, so most traditional methods require the fish to be briefly fried, grilled or roasted. It can be flattered with simple additions or far more indulgent accompaniments.
There are plenty of fish in the ocean but Halibut is a species that truly stands out – lovely when teamed with fresh mussels and a creamy leek and cider sauce.
Fillet of Halibut with mussels, leeks and cider
2 x 170g halibut fillets
300g mussels, cleaned
1 small leek, washed and sliced, white and light green parts only
50ml dry cider
1/2 shallot, chopped
1/2 small carrot, finely diced
1/2 garlic clove, chopped
1 thyme sprig
2 tbls unsalted butter
1 tbls double cream
1 tbls sunflower oil
Fine sea salt
Milled white pepper
Heat a medium sized saucepan and throw in the mussels, shallot, garlic, carrot, thyme and cider. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 2-3 minutes until all of the mussel shells have opened. Drain in a colander, reserving the cooking liquor. Strain the liquor through a muslin cloth or a very fine sieve. Remove the mussels from their shells.
Heat the sunflower oil in a non-stick frying pan; season the halibut with salt and pepper and cook gently flesh side down for about 3 minutes. Turn the fish carefully, add 1 tbls of butter and pop the pan into the pre-heated oven for 6-7 minutes, periodically spooning over some of the cooking butter.
Meanwhile, in another saucepan, slowly soften the leeks with a tiny pinch of salt in 1/2 tbls butter without colouring. Pour in the reserved mussel cooking liquor, bring to a boil and then simmer until reduced by half.
Add the double cream and swirl in the remaining 1/2 tbls butter followed by the shelled mussels. Enliven the sauce with a little squeeze of lemon juice and check seasoning – adjusting if necessary.
Remove the fish from the oven and finish with a squeeze of lemon. Place a halibut fillet into the centre of warm plates and spoon the mussels and their sauce around.
Serve immediately with some boiled new potatoes and steamed green vegetables.
Terry’s latest food venture, Saltwater Fish Co at Fenwick Food Hall, has a wet fish counter and staff who can advise on all aspects of cooking fish | Saltwater Fish Co