Pan-fried Brill and King Prawns with Creamy Caper Vermouth Sauce and Aromatic Lentils
Portion/Yield:Serves 4 as a main course
Brill, turbot and halibut are my fish of choice, both to eat and to cook. Their flesh is firm and fairly robust and from a taste point of view they can stand up to strong flavours.
This delicious recipe brings sophisticated flavours together. The brill is simply pan-fried in butter and served with warm aromatic Puy lentils and a delicious creamy but strong-flavoured caper and vermouth sauce. Finally, a few slivers of raw crispy fennel add a touch of crunchiness. This is a taste and texture extravaganza in one dish!
Ingredients & Method
For the fennel
- 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed
- 1 teaspoon rapeseed oil
- finely grated
- zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the aromatic lentils
- 300g Puy lentils
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
- 3 rashers smoked streaky bacon, finely diced
- 1 banana shallot, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
For the caper vermouth sauce
- 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
- 1 small banana shallot, finely chopped
- 75ml dry vermouth or dry white wine
- 200ml fish stock
- 200ml double cream
- 2 tablespoons small capers, drained
For the pan-fried brill and king prawns
- 4 skinless brill fillets (100–120g each)
- 4 raw king prawns, peeled and deveined
- 1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
- 1 teaspoon cold unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mixed herbs (such as chervil, fennel tops or dill, flat-leaf parsley and chives)
First, prepare the fennel. Cut the fennel into slithers or thin slices, preferably using a mandolin, and place in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then add the rapeseed oil and lemon zest and juice and toss to mix. Set aside at room temperature until you are ready to serve.
For the aromatic lentils, put the Puy lentils in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring up to a gentle simmer, then add a pinch of salt and cook, uncovered, over a medium heat for 15–20 minutes or until the lentils are cooked and tender, then drain and set aside.
Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan and once it starts to foam, add the bacon, shallot, garlic and carrot. Season with salt and pepper and sauté over a medium heat for about 8 minutes or until the shallot turns opaque and the bacon caramelises. Add the cooked lentils, then add the sherry vinegar and let it bubble, stirring and scraping the base of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze it. Remove from the heat and keep the lentils warm.
Meanwhile, to make the caper vermouth sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan and sauté the shallot over a medium heat for about 5 minutes or until it starts to caramelise. Add the vermouth to the pan and let it bubble, stirring and scraping the base of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze it. Cook over a high heat for a further 5 minutes or until the vermouth has reduced by half. Add the stock and cream and season with salt and pepper to taste (go easy on the salt as the capers might be quite salty). Bring the sauce to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 8 minutes or until the sauce is slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Taste the capers and if they are very vinegary and salty, rinse them under cold water, then pat dry. Stir the capers into the sauce, then remove from the heat and keep warm.
In the meantime, cook the brill and prawns. Season the brill and prawns with salt and pepper. Heat the rapeseed oil in a large, non-stick frying pan until hot but not smoking, then place the fish fillets in the pan and fry over a medium–high heat for 3 minutes. Turn the fillets over and then add the prawns and butter to the pan. Cook the fish and prawns for a further 3 minutes or until the fish is golden brown and cooked but still moist and the prawns have turned pink. Turn the prawns halfway through the cooking time to make sure they are cooked on both sides. Drain the fish and prawns on kitchen paper, then leave to rest for 1 minute before serving.
To serve, spoon a portion of lentils on to each serving plate, place a pan-fried brill fillet on top, followed by a pan-fried prawn, then top with the marinated fennel. Spoon the caper sauce around the lentils and serve immediately with wilted spinach or steamed broccoli on the side.
The brill could be substituted with halibut, sea bass, turbot, lemon sole or sea trout. It’s quite an expensive and elaborate dish, so the prawns are optional or, if you’re feeling flush, substitute the prawns for lovely meaty fresh shelled scallops. The scallops, brill and aromatic lentils would make a fantastic combination too.