Artist’s Palate: Langlands & Bell’s braised gurnard with patacones
British artists Langlands & Bell have worked together for four decades, producing quietly provocative works ranging from monochrome sculptures to an interactive animation of Osama bin Laden’s house (which earned them a Turner prize nomination in 2004). Like their partnership, their recipe of choice is an ingenious pairing – this time between gurnard, a prehistoric-looking fish, and patacones, fried slices of bananas or plantains. ‘It’s based on meals we have eaten in Cartagena, Colombia, where fish and bananas of many kinds are regularly eaten together,’ they explain. Often prepared at Untitled, a modernist summer retreat of their own design in the Kent Weald, the dish is served with typographic napkins – a housewarming gift from architect Amanda Levete – and best paired with ‘a light beer, a dry Biddenden’s cider, or a Sauvignon blanc’.
This recipe can be prepared by two people making one part each, or by one person if the patacónes are prepared beforehand and cooked while the fish is in the oven.
Gurnards are sustainable, prehistoric-looking fish with firm white flesh and subtle flavour that combines very well with other ingredients. We prefer them whole because it’s easier to check their freshness, because they look great and the head and bones contribute a lot of extra flavour to the liquor or juice of the dish. Ask your supplier to scale, gut, and clean the fish removing the fins, but leaving the head and tail on. Keep in a cool place until you have prepared the vegetables.
100ml olive oil
100g unsalted butter (we prefer goats’ butter because its lightness combines well with fish)
2 medium onions, medium sliced
4-5 sticks celery, cut into 3cm pieces
2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced into 2cm pieces (a firm waxy potato such as Nicola is best)
2 large carrots, cut into 2cm pieces
3 bay leaves
1.5kg whole gurnards
sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
2 glasses dry white wine
1 large pinch saffron
Use a large heavy oven-proof dish with a lid (we use a large white Le Creuset casserole).
Put on the stove over a low heat with the oil and butter and add the vegetables and bay leaves.
Gently turn the vegetables in the oil and butter and allow to soften in the heat for 10 mins without browning them.
Season the fish with salt and pepper and place in the pan with the vegetables.
Add the wine and the saffron, cover the dish and heat gently to a simmer. Then put the casserole into a medium preheated oven and cook for 30-40 mins depending on the size of the fish.
Once cooked, the fish can be easily lifted out and separated from the bone or served whole individually with the vegetables.
3 green plantains (platanos verdes) or 6 good-sized green bananas
500ml sunflower oil
300ml heavily salted water (put 1 tbs salt in 300ml warm water, stir vigorously, and leave to cool)
a small handful of coriander leaves, washed and loosely chopped
4 limes, cut into wedges
To peel the plantains, cut off stalk part and run the point of knife blade lengthways along the seams of the banana at skin depth to split apart and remove. Separating the skin from the flesh can be a slightly fiddly operation but it’s worth it. Beware, bananas have a tendency to stain permanently.
Cut the peeled plantains or bananas diagonally into 1cm-thick slices and gently ‘half-cook’ in batches in the hot oil in a deep frying pan or shallow saucepan for about 5 mins until slightly softened. The oil should be bubbling, but don’t allow the bananas to brown.
Remove each batch of bananas from the oil once ‘half-cooked’ and set aside on kitchen paper to cool slightly.
As soon as you can handle the cooling slices individually, crush each one under the blade of a large knife on a breadboard so that they split apart slightly but don’t beak into pieces.
Dip each slightly crushed slice of banana into the heavily salted water and set aside for 10 mins on folded kitchen paper to dry while you ‘half-cook’ the rest. When all the bananas have dried off to the touch, cook again in the oil until light golden brown in colour (about 3-4 mins).
Sprinkle with sea salt and the chopped coriander and serve everything on large white plates with lime wedges and hot chilli sauce on the side.
As originally featured in the July 2017 issue of Wallpaper* (W*220)