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Roast halibut with braised leeks and red wine sauce

How things change.

Photograph: Alan Donaldson
Photograph: Alan Donaldson

Halibut got its name in the 1400s from "haly", or holy, and "butt", a Germanic word for flatfish, and over the centuries it has been elevated from a dish served on holy days to a perennial favourite.

The whole fish we buy at my restaurants are so fresh they are stiff with rigor mortis. We break the fish into four fillets or cut them in half down the spine, then cut each half into portioned steaks, which allows the fish to be cooked on the bone. The cheeks and skirt are used in smaller dishes and we make a stock from the skeleton after removing the gills and washing the bones.

For the sauce here you'll need veal stock – West Tarelgin Farm in Ayrshire sells rose veal bones (bit.ly/15vsLq1), or if you'd prefer a ready-made stock Natoora has 500ml for £3.50 (bit.ly/WMfgCm).

Roast halibut with braised leeks and red wine sauce

Serves 4

Braised leeks

4 small leeks, trimmed and washed

50g unsalted butter

100ml white wine

350ml fresh chicken stock

1 small bunch of thyme

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved

Cut the leeks in half lengthways, then melt the butter in a large pan and cook them with a pinch of salt on a medium to high heat until golden brown. Add the wine and boil rapidly to reduce it by two-thirds, then add the stock, thyme and garlic. Bring the liquid to the boil and cook until it has reduced by half. Meanwhile, set the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

Transfer the pan to the oven for 20 minutes or until the leeks are tender and the stock has reduced to a glaze. Leave the leeks to cool and store them in the reduced stock until ready to serve.

Red wine sauce

500ml good red wine

2 large shallots, finely sliced

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced

1 star anise

1 sprig of thyme

350ml good-quality veal stock

30g caster sugar


80g unsalted butter, cold and diced

Place the wine, shallots, garlic, star anise and thyme in a saucepan and boil until reduced to around 150ml. Add the stock and caster sugar and reduce to 300ml. Adjust the seasoning as required then strain the sauce through a sieve, return to the heat and bring to the boil. Whisk in the butter to emulsify just before serving.

Cooking and serving the halibut

3tbsp olive oil

4 x 160g portions of halibut fillet

1tbsp sea salt

Half a lemon

Set the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.

Heat a large, non-stick frying pan with the oil until very hot. Season each portion of fish with the salt.

Cook the halibut for about 1 minute on each side, aiming for a golden colour on both, then finish cooking it in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Add a few more minutes if the fillets are more than 2-3cm thick.

Warm the leeks and place a couple of spoonfuls in the centre of each serving plate.

Place the halibut on top of the leeks and squeeze a few drops of lemon juice on to the fish. Warm the red wine sauce, pour it around the fish and serve.

A lightly oaked chardonnay with excellent depth, a creamy, smooth texture and perfectly balanced acidity.

Domaine Pierre Matrot, Bourgogne White 2009, Burgundy (Corney & Barrow, £14.65)

The Honours, 58a North Castle Street, Edinburgh. Visit thehonours.co.uk or call 0131 220 2513.

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