May 11, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 12:36 am

I don’t think I’ve ever come across a fish that looked so thoroughly delighted to be on my plate.

sand dab

Doesn’t he look happy? What a weird creature! I didn’t even know these things existed until last week. I was in Sainsbury’s, perusing the fresh fish counter when I encountered a very talkative fishmonger.

If you’re a touch on the hung-over side early on a Sunday morning, what you don’t want to here is a very loud and unnecessarily chirpy voice saying “Oi, Luv! You don’t need all that! You should give some to me ‘ere!”

I looked up cautiously. Behind the fish counter was an old-ish gentleman pointing at his very bald, shiny, crown. “You don’t need all that ‘air! Look ‘ere! I’m the one that need’s it!”

 If I hadn’t been so keen to get my hand on some fish that week, I’d probably have laughed politely, nodded and left quickly. The irritating thing was, Dad, who was also there after giving me a lift to the shops, found this guy totally hilarious.  A short session of banter between the two of them followed.

DAD Well, it’s easy for you- at least you don’t have to colour yours.

Admittedly, my dad’s odd hybrid Sri-Lankan /Surrey accent juxtaposed with the strong cockney of the fishmonger made for fairly entertaining listening in itself. 

FISHMONGER: Ah… That’s true. And I could get meself a wig. But the white ‘air makes you look, y’know, distinguished, don’t it?
DAD: You mean past it.
FISHMONGER : Naaah -  not past it! I mean, just because there’s snow on the roof, it don’t mean the fire’s gone out, eh? (winks)

At this point I’d decided I’d had enough of this. No one wants to hear about whether or not their Dad’s fire has gone out, especially when hung-over and tired. So I hurriedly pointed at at the seabass. “How much for those  two little ones?”  It turned out they were far too expensive. But, at this point, the guy behind the counter finally made himself useful and pointed out and recommended the dabs.

The fact I’d never seen or heard of these fish was a good enough reason for me to enthusiastically grab them, then get out of earshot before Dad and the fishmonger continued their male bonding session. 

Later, at home I realised one fish was probably not quite enough for Goon to eat so,  the next day, I found some scallops and prawns (in the bargain bin - woohoo!) to keep the dabs company.

The internet yielded very few recipe suggestions for this particular species, especially since these fish weren’t boned and, hence, not really suitable for stuffing. So, I went for a simple option: the dabs, with a little champagne (well, Hardy’s sparkling pinot-noir) -cream sauce, asparagus, lemon and a small side of a lemon, herb and shellfish risotto.

dab, risotto, asparagus  

Now, I don’t usually bother cutting the heads off whole fish - especially not since that incident with the mackerel- but I really couldn’t leave these ones on. Don’t worry- I haven’t gone soft. But the dabs’ faces were so comical! I couldn’t stop giggling at them. At one point, I looked at them, snorted and ended up with my fizzy pinot noir coming out of my nose. After that, the dab head just had to go.

It’s a shame, but, apart from being  very entertaining to look at, the dabs weren’t all that great. When it came down to it, they were a bit plain and lacking in flavour. I didn’t mind too much as the seafood risotto was totally gorgeous and more than compensated for the dabs’ blandness but I’m not sure I’d buy these fish again.

Well, maybe I would, just to see that smile again. ;)

dab face




  1. Seafood risotto? Did you make that one up? Can you share the recipe? Dab sure looks ugly ;-) hehehe just kidding. :-)

    Comment by Sam — May 11, 2007 @ 7:11 pm

  2. It’s staring at me… O.o

    Comment by Garrett — May 12, 2007 @ 9:42 am

  3. He doesn’t look so happy in his after shot….

    Comment by Freya — May 12, 2007 @ 9:09 pm

  4. I’m surprised I’ve never heard of this fish, Ros. Did the monger tell you (or more likely your dad) where they’re native to?

    Comment by Trig — May 13, 2007 @ 2:39 pm

  5. Hi Sam: Yes I tend to make most things up as I go along and unfortunately I don’t have much time to make notes and write up my recipes now because of this stupid PhD I’m doing. I pretty much did this

    but stirred the prawns through the rice in the last 30s it was cooking, so they just cooked through and went pink as I was ready to serve up. I seared whole scallops seperately for about 30s per side on high heat, then sliced them and added them to the risotto. I also used chives as well as parsley. Hope that helps.
    Hey! Don’t diss my dab! ;)

    Hi Garrett: He’s not staring, he’s smiling! ;)

    Hi Freya: Yes, I felt bad beheading him. But eating whilst laughing isn’t too easy.

    Hi Trig: I don’t think Dad would have asked but I remember the origin of the fish was printed on it’s label. It was somewhere on the south coast but I can’t remember where.

    Comment by ros — May 13, 2007 @ 7:25 pm

  6. OK, you are right - fish heads don’t come much more amusing than this….! As a flat fish, I would guess these are related to plaice? [checks internet] - yes they are - both members of the Pleuronectidae family. It’s also described as a type of flounder - and Trig, they appear to be common around England. There is even a flounder trampling contest in Scotland - I kid you not!

    Comment by Jeanne — May 14, 2007 @ 2:42 pm

  7. Thanks for the link, Jeanne. Shame they didn’t taste much like plaice.

    Comment by ros — May 15, 2007 @ 4:24 pm

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