Slow baked turbot

Ugnsbakad piggvar

A turbot ready for baking slowly

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…"

Slow baked brill with browned butter and grated horseradish
Slow baked brill

Turbot is a real treat: firm-fleshed, fine-tasting and easy to handle. Of course, the disadvantage is the price as they are highly sought-after by upmarket restaurants. If turbot is too dear, you can use brill instead, which is often slightly cheaper and is also luscious. In fact, brill and turbot are so closely related that they sometimes interbreed. Whether you choose brill or turbot you are sure of a wonderful treat.

Such a fine fish, whether turbot or brill, is normally served quite simply in Sweden with boiled or steamed potatoes, melted or brown butter, freshly grated horseradish and a few steamed vegetables or a salad. It makes for an easy meal, but it is absolutely Swedelicious! John Duxbury


Recipe summary for slow baked turbot 


• 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 turbot, 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.

Peeled and grated fresh horseradish on a board

• 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.)


1   whole turbot, 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).)

Slow baked turbot with beurre noisette and grated horseradish

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 each fillet with some grated horseradish and then pour some of the juices from the pan and some melted or brown butter over the fillets. Garnish as desired. Serve the remaining melted or brown butter in a sauce boat or a jug, 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 or jug, discarding the residues, and then keep it warm.

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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