Quick and easy to cook, delicious and nutritious to eat, few things capture the essence of a summer meal quite like a perfectly grilled fish. As the skin chars the flesh takes on a wonderful smoky aroma, and because it’s being cooked whole, the bones keep the flesh moist, adding an intensity of flavour that’s impossible to achieve from cooking just the fillet.
Although it’s a simple dish to cook there are several key instructions that must be pedantically followed. The skin must be bone dry and the griddle has to be very hot or the skin will stick. Blot the fish with absorbent kitchen paper to remove all the surface moisture, and then generously brush with oil and season well with salt. Carefully place the fish on the hot griddle and leave undisturbed for 4 minutes. It is essential you don’t move it; it needs time for the skin to form a crust and for the lovely char lines to develop. After 4 minutes carefully turn over and cook the other side for 4 minutes. Now rest the fish for 2 minutes; the juices will relax back into the flesh as the residual heat completes the cooking process.
Cooking times vary depending on the thickness of the fish. Julian Pryke, the excellent Fishmonger on Circus Street, recommends 10 minutes total cooking time per inch of fish.
Grilled John Dory with Lemon & Marjoram – serves 2
Preparation time 10 minutes Cooking time 10 minutes
2 whole John Dory approx. 700g – cleaned & fins removed
1 lemon – cut in half & grilled
Salt & black pepper
- Rinse the John Dory in cold water and then dry thoroughly.
- Cut a few diagonal slashes just through the skin on the thickest part.
- Place a bay leaf and some marjoram in the belly cavity.
- Pre-heat the griddle pan until very hot (at least 5 minutes).
- Brush with oil & season generously with salt.
- Cook undisturbed for 4 minutes.
- Turnover and cook undisturbed for another 4 minutes.
- Rest for 2 minutes and then serve with some grilled lemon, peppery watercress & fresh bread.