A show-stopping fish dish



Photograph Jason Lowe

In the second of our summer season recipes, our Head Chef Stewart Turner explains a straightforward way to serve up a stunning, flavour-filled John Dory.

John Dory is a firm-fleshed white fish from our waters that works well when baked whole. Although cooking fish whole can seem a bit daunting, it is actually really simple, and makes a fantastic centre piece for the table. This is great as an alternative to the traditional Sunday roast. Here, I’ve created a wonderful saffron dressing and some roast fennel to really enhance the flavours.

Whole baked John DoryServes four
  • 1 large John Dory (about 1kg) – eyes and gills removed
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Olive oil, for cooking
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 2 cloves garlic – smashed
  • ½ lemon – sliced

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Season the John Dory all over with salt and pepper, place the thyme sprigs, sliced lemon and smashed garlic in the belly cavity.

Place on a baking tray and drizzle with a little olive oil, bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, until the fish is just cooked. To check, insert a needle into the thickest part of the fish and hold it to your lips; it should feel warm. Allow to rest in a warm place for about 5 minutes.

Place the John Dory on a serving platter with the fennel.  Place the dressing in a small pot & serve on the side

Baked fennel

  • 2 fennel bulbs – cut into 1cm slices, reserve the fronds
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 basil stalks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon –sliced
  • A pinch coriander and fennel seeds

Place the fennel on a rectangle of greaseproof paper (you need a piece big enough to wrap over the top). Drizzle with olive oil and season, then add the seeds, herbs and lemon Fold over the edges of the greaseproof to form a parcel and then wrap in foil.

Bake in the oven for about half an hour until the fennel is tender, remove from the parcels discard the herbs, seeds & lemon but retain any fennel juices.

Pan-fry the fennel slices in a little olive oil until caramelised. Scatter with the chopped fennel fronds and serve with the John Dory.

Saffron dressing

  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 50ml Chardonnay vinegar
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the water and saffron in a small sauce pan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat. Add the vinegar, whisk in the oil and season to taste. Finally, whisk in any fennel juices along with those that have come from the resting fish.