Brill Poached In Beer With Cabbage & Pancetta

Brill – it’s a lovely fish. A nice clean meat with a good firm texture and not overly strong tasting. It’s a (slightly) cheaper version of Turbot. Unfortunately it has been over-fished and we should be encouraged to seek alternatives. But – I’m of the opinion that if we eat enough sustainable fish and occasionally eat a fish that has been over-fished, it’s not the end of the world. Do your bit for sustainable fish but don’t deprive yourself of the occasional treat.
First you need to fillet the fish. You get 4 fillets from a flat fish like this. Take a look at it:

With a filleting knife cut the fillet from the fish that you can pretty much see at the top of the fish in this photo – run your knife around the head and round towards the back-bone of the fish. Then run your knife down the back-bone towards the tail – try to angle your blade so it’s cutting under the flesh running along the rib bones – you’ll feel them as you cut over them – they’re quite firm, you shouldn’t cut through them. Once you reach the tail, pull back the fillet – you may need to cut a bit more under the fillet to release it.
The fillet should just be attached by the side of the fish. Cut up, along the side of the fish, back towards the head. The fillet should now come away. Tidy it up – cut away any frill on the side. You should have a nice, clean fillet.
Repeat this with the other side and then with the other 2 fillets on the white underside of the fish.
Now you have your fillet, here’s how to cook it:
What you’ll need

  • 1 fillet of brill per person – or half a fillet depending on the size of the fish
  • 1 leek chopped
  • 1 stick celery chopped
  • 1 bulb fennel sliced
  • 1 onion sliced
  • thyme – picked
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pint beer – try a pale ale – nothing overly bitter though
  • 1 tablespoon cubed pancetta
  • Half a sliced savoy cabbage
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Salt & pepper.

In a pan gently cook the onion, celery, fennel and leek in a tablespoon of oil. Cook for 15 minutes until the vegetables are softened – make sure you don’t fry them too hard though – you don’t want them to darken.
Add the beer to the pan and bring to a simmer for a few minutes.
Place the brill fillets on the top of the veg, cover the pan and allow to poach/steam (the fillets will half poach and half steam as they will rest on top of the veg). Poach for 3 minutes and then remove from the heat and leave, covered for a minute or so longer.
Fry the pancetta in a pan – you shouldn’t really need any oil for this as the pancetta will release its own. Once browned off, add the cabbage and cook for a minute or 2 longer. Season with salt and black pepper.
To serve – arrange the cabbage on a plate and then place a spoonful of the poached veg in the middle.
Remove the skin from the brill – it will cleanly peel off.
Place the brill on top and spoon over some the cooking liquid (you could add a knob of butter the to cooking liquid just to add a little richness to your dish.. depends how healthy you want to be).
It’s a really nice way to enjoy this wonderful fish.