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Friday, 17 November 2017

The mighty gurnard



Twenty years ago 99% of the gurnards caught by trawlers in Newlyn were sold as 'stocky' to the local crab boats to use as bait.  Only the biggest 'tub' gurnards were put on the market for auction - and they made only a few pence per kilo.  Enter the era of the environmental activists riding on the back of high-profile media campaigns citing over-fishing and a CFP that sought to address too many boats chasing too few fish. Then, the resultant drive to replace shrinking quotas for common species like haddock, cod and whiting with alternative species and suddenly the spikey, tough-skinned gurnard began to grace the dinner plates of more and more dishes in restaurants and homes here in the UK - largely championed by a new generation of post-Floyd TV chefs keen to be seen to offer sustainably and responsibly caught fish on their menus.



Gurnards come in three main guises - top to bottom - the larger and more meaty tub gurnard, the much smaller and sweeter red gurnard and its near cousin the grey gurnard...



colour variations between the species can be confusing though some red gurnards are bright red and some grey the dullest of greys but only the tub gurnard sports such iridescent pectoral fins...




while the smaller red gurnards sport very distinctive upturned snouts and their adaptive pecoral fins that act as feelers all gurnards make for excellent eating (as the French have known for years)  and local restaurants like Bruce Rennie's The Shore and Ben Tunnicliffe's Tolcarne use them on their menus with great success...




although the fish are bony and the skin formidably tough it means the fish can be cooked in some extreme ways - like burying an entire tub gurnard in salt and baking it whole - a classic method very often used for that King of fish, the bass - the tub makes for an extremely tasty alternative - especially when bass sells for around four times the price of tub gurnard and tastes sooooo good!

Ask your local fishmonger to sell you some!