Baked brill

Ugnsbakad slättvar

Slow baked brill with browned butter and grated horseradish

Swedes normally bake medium-sized fish, such as arctic char, and large flat fish, such as brill and turbot, very slowly. To quote from Vår Kok Bok, Sweden's top-selling cookery book, "The skin dries and protects the flesh, sealing in the flavour..."

You can use either brill or turbot for this recipe. In fact, both are so closely related that they sometimes interbreed. Brill is slightly less meaty than turbot, but it still has a wonderful texture. And there is only one word to describe the flavour… (sorry). John Duxbury


Recipe summary for oven baked whole brill 


A whole brill in a baking tray

• Allow about 350 g (12 oz), per person, so a small 700 g (1½ lb) fish will serve 2. A medium sized fish of about 1.5kg (3 lb), will serve 4.
• When choosing brill, look for bright eyes, but don’t worry about the colour of the skin as this depends on where they are caught, ranging from light brown on sandy sea floors to dark, rich chocolate-brown on muddy substrates.

A piece of fresh horseradish

• You can use hot horseradish sauce if you can't get fresh horseradish. (Fresh horseradish will keep for several weeks in a fridge if wrapped in clingfilm.)
• Serve the fish quite simply with boiled or steamed potatoes, melted or brown butter, freshly grated horseradish and a few steamed vegetables or a salad.


1   whole brill, cleaned
30 g (2 tbsp) butter per person
2 tbsp   freshly grated horseradish per person
    lemon wedges, optional
    dill sprigs, optional


1. Preheat the oven to 100°C (210°F, gas ¼, fan 100°C).

2. Weigh the fish and calculate the cooking time based on 55 minutes/kg (25 minutes/lb), or a minimum of 50 minutes.

3. Rinse the fish and then dry with paper towels.

4. Place in the pan, dark side upwards, and roast for the calculated time. (Don’t add any liquid, butter or oil.)

5. Whilst the fish is cooking, melt the butter slowly. Skim off all the froth from the surface. You will then see a clear yellow layer on top of a milky layer. Discard the milky residue and use the rest. Carefully pour into a hot sauce boat and keep warm until required. (If you prefer beurre noisette (brown butter), follow the recipe below.)

6. At the end of the calculated cooking time, check that the fish is cooked by pushing the tip of a round-ended knife through the thickest part of the flesh until it touches the backbone, then lever it gently to one side. If the fish is cooked it should come away from the backbone easily and the flesh should be white and opaque. (If you have a temperature probe, the temperature of the thickest part should be 55°C-58°C (131-136°F).)

Baked turbot with beurre noisette and grated horseradish
Baked turbot with beurre noisette

7. Serve the fish straight from the roasting pan by making a cut in the skin along the backbone, remove the skin and serve the fillets on to hot plates. Top the fillets with grated horseradish, pour over a little of the juices from the pan and some melted or brown butter and garnish as desired. Serve the remaining melted or brown butter in a sauce boat along with a dish of grated horseradish.

Beurre noisette

If you prefer to serve the fish with beurre noisette (brown butter) it is fairly easy to do if you follow the tips below. The idea is that the butter is heated a little past its melting point, which results in the milk solids in the butter browning and creating a wonderful nutty aroma.

Sliced butter in a thick bottomed saucepan

1. Heat a thick bottomed saucepan on medium heat. Add the butter cut into slices or cubes so that it heats evenly and all the butter melts at the same time.

Butter being heated in a saucepan until foaming

2. Once the butter has melted whisk it frequently. It will produce quite a lot of white foam initially, but then the foam will begin to subside.

Butter being browned in a saucepan

3. Continue whisking and heating the butter, but watching it carefully. Lightly browned specks will begin to form at the bottom of the pan and it will give off a gorgeous nutty aroma.

Browned butter in a saucepan

4. Once the butter is a rich golden colour and has a nice nutty aroma, remove the butter from the heat to stop it from cooking any more, and pour it carefully into a warmed sauce boat, discarding the residues.

Butter is easy to brown provided you watch it carefully and keep whisking it. If you neglect it and end up overcooking it, so that the butter becomes black, I am afraid you will have to discard it and start again!


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