Turbot

Scophthalmus maximus

CONTENTS

 

QUICK FACTS
  • Record size 15.3kgs, Devon, 1980
  • Typical market size 1-5kgs
  • Main sources North Sea
  • Global production (est) 25,000 tonnes (80% farmed)
  • Price £££££
  • Sustainability rating fair

 

NUTRITION / 100g
  • Energy 95kcal/401kj
  • Fat 2.7g
  • Saturates 0.7g
  • Carbohydrate zero
  • Sugars zero
  • Protein 17.7g
  • Salt 0.17g
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Swimming turbot Rare shot - turbot like it just fine on the sea bed

A Fabled Fish
Roman satirist Juvenal Is my turbot ready yet?

Turbot is widely recognized to be one of the finest fish in the sea. This flat fish grows to a large size with record specimens measuring a metre in diameter and weighing 15kgs. Such a fish takes the star role in a poem by the Roman satirist Juvenal, “The Emperor’s Turbot” in which consternation arises when the imperial kitchen is discovered to have no pot large enough to cook it whole.

Brillat-Savarin, the French gourmet, encountered a similar problem. He solved it by laying the fish in a large basket, enveloped in herbs and covered with a washtub, the whole contraption hoisted in a hammock over a water boiler. Of course, the result was brilliant (and so was the boasting). You can track this story down via Google or read it in in full in Brillat-Savarin’s book, The Physiology of Taste – an entertaining read for foodies.

 

Farming takes off

The turbot is unusual in having no scales. Like all flatfish, it’s dark on the top side (scattered with small knobbles or “tubercles”) and a bright white underside. There is a steady but limited supply of wild turbot, totalling about 5,000 tonnes a year. It's a European fish, historically found througout the Mediterranean and all the way round the Bay of Biscay and British Isles and up to northern Norway. However, we'd suggest it has been all but fished out of the Mediterranean and remains reasonably plentiful only in the North Sea and around the UK. Other parts of the world have fish called turbot, but don't be fooled.

Mira turbot farm You're looking at €200m

However, because it is so valuable, turbot was one of the first fish to be farmed, the supply of which has long exceeded that of wild. Despite the supposedly criminal collapse of a Portuguese turbot farm which had reportedly cost €200m, Europe produces perhaps 10,000 tonnes of farmed turbot a year. China has also had a go at turbot farming, on a typically epic scale - reportedly 60,000 tonnes in 2012 - but reports went quiet after serious quality issues emerged.

Nevertheless, good farmed turbot can be of excellent quality and hardly less expensive than wild. Because it is farmed in tanks onshore (rather than in nets at sea) turbot farming poses no serious pollution issues and is regarded as a green source, except for the fact that it needs fishmeal (made from small fish) which is in limited supply. We sell both wild and farmed turbot.

 

The Fish Society's turbot range
turbot fillet steak Simply superb

Fillets are our customers’ favourite choice, but they wouldn’t be happy with fillets from small fish. Part of the glory of a turbot is the huge size to which it grows. These large fish yield sumptuous thick fillets, which can be cut into 10 or more servings. From a 5kg fish, you can get a two kilo (dark side) fillet. In the middle, the fillet is very thick, around the edge and towards the tail, it’s thinner. We sell the thick parts as fillet steaks and the thinner parts as (cheaper) fillet portions. There are also some offcuts. You’ll find these in our misshapes section (with the skin removed – all misshapes are boneless and skinless).

We also sell on-the-bone steaks. For these, we buy smaller turbot because otherwise the steak would be too thick. Cooking turbot or any fish on the bone gives it extra character and usually helps keep it moist. Turbot bones are substantial – you are not going to have a small bones problem.

And we sell whole turbot. On our site you’ll find whole turbot suitable for up to 6 servings. That’s the biggest size you can readily cook at home. But if you fancy doing a Brillat-Savarin, give us a call.  We also have a range of turbot for sashimi including the engawa or fin muscle.

 

Cuisine
turbotiere Fancy one?: edhillerin.fr

Turbot has flakey white flesh but the flakes hang together well when cooked properly. It has a subtle but rich flavor. A large fish can provide up to a dozen servings, and those from the thickest middle part of the body are a uniquely sumptuous experience – these are our fillet steaks, cut from fish never less than 3kgs in size. An important feature of the turbot is its fin muscle. This runs around the edge of the fillet and it has a very different rich and oily texture verging on gelatinous. Normally, our fillet steaks and portions include this fin muscle on one side. We hope you enjoy it.

But as you will gather from the above, in the poshest places, turbot is cooked whole and for this reason, one further distinction of the turbot is to have a dish named specifically after it: the turbotiere is a kite-shaped fish kettle which 100 years ago was a must-have item in the kitchen of every self-respecting stately home. You can usually pick up an attractive old one on the internet for £500 or so but Brillat-Savarin’s turbot would surely have defeated even these. Don’t fancy second hand?... a mere £300 will secure you a modern aluminium one. Believe us - as turbotieres go, that's a bargain.

 

Sources

FIRMS sheet on North Sea stock
Seafish stock reviews
Turbot farming
Turbot farm troubles
Troubles 2
Troubles over?
Troubles sidescript
How the eyes of flatfish move as they mature

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