My husband loves fish so when I have the time to really cook something different, I try to ensure I source the freshest fish possible and that usually means heading to our local fish stall on a Saturday morning. I wasn’t sure what type of fish to choose when I visited yesterday, but I knew I wanted to make a Livornese sauce to accompany whichever fish I selected. I have only recently learnt about this sauce after watching one of the Masterchef contestants, under the guidance of the wonderful Massimo Bottura, create the most beautiful fish dish with a Livornese sauce. This sauce originates from Livorno in Tuscany and whilst it is a relatively simple recipe the flavours are heavenly. The taste of the sea, ripe tomatoes and hint of garlic immediately transport you to the world of mediterranean cuisine. The dish feels healthy yet at the same time, indulgent and the colour of the sauce looks stunning on the plate.
For this recipe I chose a very large and quite expensive Turbot, which my friendly fish man filleted for me. Traditionally a Livornese sauce is served with Red Mullet, but after a little research I found that other fish such a sole or turbot also work well with this recipe. Whatever fish you choose to buy to accompany your Livornese sauce, be sure to ask your fishmonger for some fish bones and possibly some large raw, king prawns to help you make the base for the sauce. I also purchased a small bag of clams, to add to the dish just before serving. The result was delicious and I made so much sauce that I have been able to freeze some for another day.
Turbot alla Livornese
Prep Time 1hr
Serves 4 (you will have some sauce left over for another four portions of fish)
Fish bones from the filleted Tubot plus bones from 1 x Sea Bass
6 x King Prawns (Raw)
4 Garlic cloves crushed
200g of shallots sliced
500 grams of Tomatoes (skins off and deseeded)
I litre of water
1 bottle of White Wine
1 x handful of fresh Parsley
1 x handful of fresh Basil
400 grams Tinned Chopped Tomatoes
4 x Turbot Fillets
1. Fry the fish bones in a large pan with a splash of olive oil. Keep the fish moving so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. After a couple of minutes add the shallots and garlic and continue to stir for 2-3 minutes.
2. Add the water and the white wine to the fish. Then add the fresh tomatoes, parsley, basil, oregano and seasoning. once this mixture starts to simmer cover the top of the liquid with a circle of greaseproof paper to stop a skin forming and to prevent the liquid reducing too much. Let this mixture simmer gently for at least an hour.
3. After an hour taste the sauce and check the seasoning. If you feel there is enough depth to the flavour (leave a little longer if not), strain off the liquid into another pan and discard the bones.
4. In another pan fry your king prawns and crush them slightly to release as much flavour as possible. Then add the prawns, a little tomato paste and the tinned tomatoes to the liquid and continue to simmer gently without a lid for a further 30 mins (approximately). Keep tasting to check the richness of the flavour.
5, Remove the prawns and strain the liquid again. If you like your sauce really smooth use a hand blender, but be careful not to burn yourself in the process.
6. Taste the sauce again and if you are happy set the sauce to one side, but if you feel the flavour needs to be richer continue to gently simmer the sauce for a further 15-30mins. Then set to one side until needed.
7. Fry each fillet of Turbot skin down in a little oil and then turn over (don’t rush this process – I tend to do this just before my guests sit down for their starter). Then place the fish (skin side up) in a baking tray and place in the oven at the lowest possible setting. It will slowly finish cooking through and will still be moist when you are ready to serve.
8. When you are ready to serve, warm the sauce and place a ladle full into a separate pan to cook the clams in order to cook the clams). Put a lid on the clams and cook until the clams open (this will be a matter on minutes). Add a knob of butter to the sauce and simmer.
9. Flash fry the samphire in olive oil for a couple of minutes and then begin to plate the fish.
10. Ladle the sauce on to the base of the plate, I then added a fondant potato in the middle of the sauce. Place the clams and some of the samphire around the potato and finally place the fish on top of the potato. Finish with a further sprinkle of samphire.
N.B. There are hundreds of different recipes for fish with a Livornese sauce, so the ingredients used here are based on my research and my own instincts as a cook, hence a degree of approximations with my timings and ingredients. My inspiration was Masterchef (Series 11 episode 23), but unfortunately it seems that this episode is no longer available. I hope my link will allow you to watch this programme at some point in the future.