Trying to stay healthy while craving rich French food isn’t easy. Especially when my book shelves are groaning with countless recipes designed to disrupt my diet. One such book that I didn’t expect to find anything particularly for the health conscious in was Pierre Koffmann’s ‘Classic Koffmann’ – a book that I have history with.
You may recall ‘Souffle-gate’ when I attempted Pierre’s famous Pistachio Souffle. If you don’t, here’s a reminder. In essence, the souffle decided to pour all over the baking tray leaving me a small amount to sample. The taste wasn’t bad but it really didn’t live up to the real thing sampled in Koffmann’s Knightsbridge restaurant, now of course sadly closed.
Koffmann brought out the La Tante Claire cookbook back in the early 90’s which is a pretty basic yet interesting insight into the career and recipes of Pierre. The follow up is this modern cookbook celebrating 50 years of Koffmann’s career as a chef. The photographs are stunning and the recipes look inviting.
One that caught my eye while flicking through the pages of good looking food was a dish of halibut with a citrus sauce and spinach. In many ways the recipe fits into the Koffmann ethos. A top notch fish with a simple sauce and garnish – what could be easier?
I’ve never tried halibut but have always meant to. Many of the top restaurants use this fish yet it’s always eluded me up to now. Thankfully Trawlerman fishmongers at Leicester Market sell pretty much any fish in existence on a saturday so I had high hopes heading down there. Sure enough there was halibut – and it was huge.
At £28.99 per kilo this is quite an investment. I began to worry as it seemed only large steaks were available each at around 600g. I managed to get a tail piece for 200g at a price of just over £5. Lucky really as the fish resembled the same shape as Pierre’s in the book.
So, let’s get cracking. To begin the recipe you need to make kind of a base stock for the sauce. This is easy enough, simply take some orange peel, leek, carrot, garlic, fennel, thyme and bay leaf along with a mixture of white wine and water. Boil up the water and wine together and add all of the above.
This simmers for an hour before being removed from the heat and adding in sliced ginger, lemon and orange segments. Segmenting the fruit isn’t too bad, just make sure that your knife is razor sharp to make it a great deal easier and follow the natural lines within the fruit to extract the segments. The lemon segments seemed to pull away far easier without the use of a knife.
Once the citrus has worked its magic you’re left with a flavoursome stock which needs straining into a clean pan before reducing down to a sauce consistency. While the stock reduced, I began prepping the fish. Taking the skin off the fish does require a sharp knife, otherwise you can just get this done for you by the fishmonger.
With the sauce pretty much reduced to where I wanted it, the time came to cook the fish. Koffmann simply pan fries the halibut in a little olive oil which is straightforward enough. I use circulon pans which are sublime for cooking fish – just check out that colour!
To finish the sauce, simply whisk in a knob of butter to add texture before adding in some more fresh lemon and orange segments, chives and a little more ginger. The garnish for this is just baby spinach lightly steamed with a knob of butter, dead easy.
This is more like it, Koffmann! The fish was absolutely first class. I love halibut and can now see why it commands a high price tag. I would put it just behind turbot in my list of favourite fish but it’s texture and flavour really does give turbot a run for its money. The citrus sauce is superb, not overly tangy – in fact very well balanced and pairs with the fish beautifully.
Looking at the dish in the book it did look a little TOO simple with just the spinach on the side but to be fair you do need something to counter the sour/sweet sauce and spinach does the job perfectly. Gordon Ramsay, in his three-star chef book, serves halibut with a passion fruit sauce which is something that I’d love to try further down the line. For now though, it’s good to have you back Pierre Koffmann.