Grilled plaice, asparagus and pancetta with cockles

Grilled plaice, asparagus and pancetta with cockles

Fish Kitchen
David Loftus

This is a fabulous combination of flavours. At its best, plaice is as good as any other flat fish, but you must take particular care to avoid overcooking it. If you are lucky enough to get a big fat plaice, keep it on the bone and roast it whole, then bring it to the table intact so that everyone can tuck in.


Quantity Ingredient
1 large plaice, filleted
or 2 smaller fish, filleted
1kg live cockles, cleaned
150ml white wine
20 asparagus spears
2 teaspoons Red wine shallots, see white wine variation
100ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil
2 teaspoons chives, chopped
8 thin slices pancetta
cornish sea salt


  1. Place a large saucepan (that has a tight-fitting lid) over a medium heat. When hot, add the cockles and wine and put the lid on. Steam for 2 minutes until the shells open; discard any that remain closed.
  2. Tip the contents of the pan into a colander set over a bowl to catch the cooking liquor. When the cockles are cool enough to handle, pick out the meat from the shells.
  3. Strain the saved cooking liquor through a fine sieve (or, better still, one lined with muslin) into a small pan, to get rid of any sand from the cockles. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat and simmer until reduced by half; set aside.
  4. Trim the asparagus and peel the lower part of the stems. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and have ready a bowl of iced water. Add the asparagus to the boiling water and blanch for 2 minutes, then remove and drop straight into the ice-cold water to refresh. Once cooled, remove and drain. Set side until ready to serve.
  5. To make the dressing, put the cockle meat in a large bowl and add the white wine shallots, 70 ml of the rapeseed oil and the chives. Toss to mix and season with a touch of salt.
  6. Oil the grill tray and sprinkle with salt. Lay the plaice fillets skin side up on the tray; set aside.
  7. Heat your grill to hot. Place the pancetta on a baking tray under the grill until crispy, then remove and set aside.
  8. Toss the asparagus spears in the remaining oil and season with a little salt.
  9. Put the tray of plaice under the grill and cook for 5 minutes, adding the asparagus spears for the last couple of minutes, to warm and colour them all over, turning as necessary.
  10. Meanwhile, gently heat the dressing. Add 100 ml of the reserved cockle juice; don’t let it boil.
  11. Divide the grilled asparagus between warm plates and carefully lay the fish fillets skin side up on top, using a palette knife to transfer them. Add the crispy pancetta and spoon over the cockle dressing. Serve and enjoy.
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