Pan-Fried Turbot on Tumbet (Mallorcan Vegetable Stew)

This rather complex dish illustrates perfectly how much more labour-intensive vegetable dishes are as compared to fish or meat dishes: Whereas it took us approximately 3 hours to labour our way through the (supposed) side-dish part of this dish, the fish took an exact 6 minutes to fry. To be fair: I am not counting in the filleting of the fish but with a little bit of practice, even that is fairly quick (especially with non-scaly fish such as turbot).

Otherwise, I, rather daringly, chose to couple the delicate-tasting turbot with a strong-in-flavour vegetable stew inspired by Mallorcan tumbet. I have to say „inspired by“ as the original recipe prescribes frying the vegetable in crates of olive oil before baking it which I could not bring myself to do (although it’s delicious – but I save up sins like these for my vacation). Instead, I pan-fried the vegetables in little oil in a grill pan and then stewed them in sofrito, this most basic of Spanish sauces, before bringing them together into their typical layered form.

Feel free, by the way, to exchange the turbot with different types of fish if these are more readily available: E.g. sole, bream, sea bass or pike perch work perfectly as well.

Sanni

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Ingredients (serves 4):

For the sofrito:

  • 1 kg of ripe tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled & whole
  • 1/4 tablespoon of Pimentón de la Vera dulce
  • 1/4 tablespoon of Pimentón de la Vera picante
  • a couple of tablespoons of olive oil (for frying)
  • 1 teaspoon of very finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • freshly ground pepper, sea salt

For the tumbet:

  • 2 medium potatoes, cut into thick slices
  • 1 small eggplant, cut into thick slices
  • 1 small zucchini (courgette), cut into thick slices
  • 1 red pointed pepper, halved & seeds and membranes removed
  • 1 Spanish onion, cut into thick slices
  • 1 beef tomato, cut into thick slices
  • a couple of tablespoons of olive oil (for frying)
  • approx. 50 grams of ground Manchego cheese

For the sauce:

  • 500 ml of fish stock (ideally prepared from the carcass of the tumbet)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 of a teaspoon of locust bean gum powder
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • sea salt
  • 1 branch of fresh tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon of tapioca pearls

For the fish filets:

  • 4 turbot filets
  • freshly ground black pepper, sea salt
  • 2 branches of fresh rosemary
  • a couple of tablespoons of olive oil (for frying)
  • For the decoration: 4 small branches of fresh rosemary

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Preparation:

Preparing the sofrito:

  1. With a sharp and pointed knife, cut the stalks out of the tomatoes. Cut a cross-shaped incision into the bottom of each tomato.
  2. Bring approximately 1 liter of water to the boil. Add the tomatoes one by one and remove after approximately 30 seconds (when the skin just starts lifting around the incision or starts breaking). Rinse with cold water immediately. Then peel off the tomato skin, cut into halves and remove the seeds with a tablespoon. Preserve the seeds separately.
  3. Roughly chop the tomato halves.
  4. Blend the tomato seeds and pass the liquid through a sieve into a container. Preserve the liquid and discard the seeds.
  5. Heat up the oil in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat. Fry the onion until soft (but not brown). Add the garlic cloves and the Pimentón de la Vera and fry briefly.
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes and the tomato liquid (approximately 150 ml – if required, fill up with water). Bring to the boil and let stew on low heat for approximately 40 minutes.
  7. Add the rosemary and season with freshly ground pepper and salt to taste. Let stew for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Preparing the tumbet:

  1. Brush a grill pan with olive oil. Heat up on medium to high heat.
  2. Fry the vegetable slices one after the other on both sides until they just turn soft, weighing down the eggplant, zucchini and the pepper e.g. with the bottom of a heavy pot during the frying and reapplying oil when necessary. Set aside each type of vegetable separately.
  3. Pre-heat the oven at 150 degrees Celsius.
  4. Spread the vegetables over the bottom of a large flat oven dish, keeping the types of vegetable separate from one another. Cover with the sofrito.
  5. Stew in the oven for approximately 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven.
  7. Grease a baking tray with olive oil. Use dessert rings to create four small „towers“ from the vegetables: Start with a thin layer of sofrito, then continue with a layer of potato, onion, eggplant, zucchini, pepper and tomato. Fill any holes with sofrito. Sprinkle a bit of ground cheese over the top.
  8. When your fish sauce is ready (see next section), bake in the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese melts (it should not form a crust). Then remove from the oven and serve immediately with the fish (see section „Serving“).

Preparing the sauce:

  1. Boil the tapioca in water for approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Strain and set aside.
  2. Reduce the fish stock to one third with the bay leaves added. Add the locust bean gum powder (best is to sieve it onto the liquid) while beating hard.
  3. Add the tarragon and simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
  4. Pass through a sieve into another saucepan and season with lemon juice and salt. Keep warm.
  5. Just before serving, stir in the tapioca pearls.

Preparing the turbot:

  1. Season the turbot with salt and pepper on the side without skin.
  2. Heat up the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan on high heat and add the rosemary to the hot oil.
  3. Fry the fish filets with the skin side facing down for 3 minutes while weighing them down, e.g., with a large sauce-pot.
  4. Turn around and fry for another 3 minutes (without weight). Serve immediately (see next section).

Serving:

  1. Pre-warm 4 dishes.
  2. Place one vegetable tower in the middle of each dish. Carefully place the fish filet on top.
  3. Sprinkle the sauce over the fish an the dish.
  4. Decorate with a branch of rosemary.
  5. Serve immediately.

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