Hastings Gurnard, Sussex
Gurnard or gurnet actually covers three fish found off our coasts, of which the most commonly found in fishmongers and occasionally on the supermarket slab is the grey.
For far too long we have been terribly conservative in our choice of sea fish in this country: cod, haddock, plaice, sole, and not a great deal else. The devastated cod stocks reflect our obsession with it, and that of other European and North American lands. This is a double tragedy, as the seas off Britain have a fantastic variety of fish, with interesting flavours and recipe options. One of these is the Grey Gurnard, found frequently all along the North Sea coast and round the Channel, from Lyme Bay along to Hastings and beyond.
Hastings has its own recipe for dealing with the gurnard, a fish that on first sight can seem largely composed of fins and head, but which yields good firm fillets of white flesh. They roll the whole fish in flour and then draw them through melted lard or dripping, slash the skin, and grill. The same is done with the fillets.
The flesh of the gurnard can have a tendency to dryness, so it is customary to serve it with melted butter, as is customarily the case in Hastings, or with a cream or cheese sauce.