Everything tastes better in pancetta
The fish cookery legend shares one of his recipes from his new book Grilled Gurnard wrapped in pancetta, parsnip & parmesan mash, lemon & sage butter
“When you wrap something in bacon and grill it, it’s got to taste good – but gurnard done this way is something else,” says Nathan Outlaw. “Gurnard’s creamy-white, firm flesh has a unique flavour and texture and, when mixed with the saltiness of bacon and the boldness of sage, the combination is just perfect.
“Baking the parsnips in their skins really intensifies the flavour and ensures that the mash isn’t watery,” the chef adds. “If you wish, you can change the cheese for goats’ or even blue cheese.”
Alternative fish: mackerel, bass, grey or red mullet, sea bass, goatfish
Ingredients (Serves 4)
1 gurnard, about 2kg, descaled gutted, filleted, pin-boned and trimmed
Zest of 1 lemon
12 sage leaves
12 slices of pancetta
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the parsnip mash:
4 large parsnips, unpeeled 4tbs rock salt
100g unsalted butter
100g grated Parmesan, grated 2tbs chopped chives
For the lemon and sage butter:
2tbs chopped sage
1 shallot, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
250g unsalted butter, softened
1. First make the butter. Place the chopped sage, shallot, garlic, lemon zest and juice in a bowl. Add the softened butter and mix with a spatula until evenly blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Lay a sheet of baking parchment on a work surface and spoon the butter onto it. Wrap the butter in the paper, rolling it into a long sausage shape. This can be kept in the fridge for up to three days or frozen for one month. Before cooking the fish, cut the butter into thick slices; three per portion of fish.
2. Preheat the oven to 180C Fan (400.F), Gas Mark 6. Place each whole parsnip on a tablespoon pile of salt on an oven tray and cook for one hour, then set aside to cool a little. When you can handle them without burning yourself, carefully cut them lengthways and scoop the cooked flesh out into a bowl, keeping the outside skin intact. 3. Mash the cooked parsnip with the butter, Parmesan and chives, taste and season with salt and pepper. Divide the parsnip mash between the parsnip shells, then slice each in half and lay them onto a tray, ready to be reheated. To reheat, place them in the oven for 15 minutes.
4. To cook the gurnard, preheat the grill to a medium setting. Take the fish out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking as this will help you get a good even cook.
Cut the two gurnard fillets in half to give you four equal portions and season with salt, pepper and the lemon zest. Place three sage leaves on the skin of each fillet and then wrap three slices of pancetta around each one, encasing the sage beneath the pancetta. Arrange the fish, skin-side up, on an oiled grill tray and place under the grill for six minutes. If the fish fillets are very thick they may need another couple of minutes. Rest for two minutes on the hot tray and place three slices of butter on each fish fillet. Place back under the grill for two minutes.
5. To serve, warm four plates and lay two parsnip halves on each plate. Carefully lift the gurnard from the grill tray and place next to the parsnips. Share any butter left on the grill tray between the four plates and serve immediately.