A Brace of Witch in a Dukkah Crust, Crispy Samphire & Dulse Hollandaise by Michael Leathley, Head Chef at The Pierhouse Hotel & Seafood Restaurant

Growing up in North Shields, I spent a lot of time down by the sea. My grandad was a day boat fisherman on the River Tyne, and while I didn’t follow in his footsteps, I knew from a young age that working with seafood was the right career path for me.

After spending time working in London, Aberdeen and Glasgow, I’ve recently moved to Port Appin and taken on the role of Head Chef at The Pierhouse Hotel & Seafood Restaurant. One of the most exciting things about this part of the coast is being able to get out and about to meet and work with our fantastic local suppliers. Our oysters are hand-picked from Loch Creran oyster beds; mussels and langoustines are harvested from Loch Linnhe and Loch Etive; and our lobsters and crab are kept mouth-wateringly fresh in creels at the end of the pier which guests can see as they arrive at the restaurant, as long as the tide isn’t too far in.

To me, the most important thing is letting the food speak for itself, using classic, simple techniques. Cooking at The Pierhouse is a celebration of the environment around us, with dishes that respect the abundance of local produce and the people who spend their lives working on the land and sea, to bring us the finest produce.

Our fillets of fish are no exception, and we’re proud to source ours from Shona and James at Silver Sea Fish in Ballachulish. A witch is a left-eyed flounder found in deep water, from the same family as lemon sole and plaice, with a delicate flavour and beautiful texture. Your local fishmonger will be able to source witch for you, however Megrim sole, Dover sole and most other flat fish will work well.

In this recipe I’m sharing with you today, the brace of dish is topped with a colourful dukkah crust, making this dish a real festive treat, full of flavours and textures and perfect to share with family and friends. I love the sweet, mild flavour of this fish dish, and its delicate texture contrasts nicely with the crunch of the toasted nuts and seeds. You could also use any leftover hollandaise to make a wonderful potato salad to serve alongside your fish.

Serves four


For the brace of witch:

  • 2x whole witches (or a similar flat fish such as plaice)

For the dukkah crust:

  • 100g hazelnuts
  • 30g pumpkin seeds
  • 15g fennel seeds
  • 15g cumin seeds
  • 15g whole green peppercorns
  • 50g coriander seeds
  • 20g sesame seeds
  • 10g black sesame seeds
  • 2g smoked paprika
  • Sea salt, to season

For the dulse hollandaise:

  • 20g chopped shallots
  • 2g cracked black pepper
  • 90ml cider or white wine vinegar
  • 90ml water
  • 180ml egg yolks
  • 540ml melted or clarified butter
  • 15ml lemon juice
  • 10g dried dulse flakes

For the crispy samphire:

  • 500g samphire
  • 500g cornflour
  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml milk
  • 2g smoked paprika

To garnish:

  • A handful of mint leaves


For the brace of witch:

1. First, make sure your fish has the guts removed and the scales scraped off. Using a pair of sturdy scissors, trim away the skirt from around the edge of the witch. I like to keep the head on during cooking, however, if you prefer, you can cut around the head to remove it.

2. With the head of the fish pointing away from you, make a small cut across the tail just going through the skin, and gently separate the skin from the tail until you have enough to get a good grip. Holding the tail with a tea towel, with your right hand and the top skin of the fish in your left, you will be able to peel the skin off. Alternatively, your fishmonger will be able to prepare the fish for you.

3. Place the fish on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper.

For the dukkah crust:

1. Dry fry all the ingredients individually until toasted and fragrant. Leave to cool.

2. Blend all the seeds, nuts and spices together. I like to keep the mix course, however if you blend it more finely the dukkah is a great topping for salads, potatoes and other fish dishes.

3. Brush the top of the witch with the whisked egg and milk mix, and press a layer of dukkah over the whole fish.

4. Bake in the oven at 160°C for 15-20 minutes.

For the dulse hollandaise:

1. Place the vinegar, shallots and peppercorns in a pan and reduce down until the pan is nearly dry.

2. Remove from the heat and cool with the 90ml water, straining the liquid through a sift into a metal bowl.

3. Place your bowl or reduction over a pan of water on slow simmer. Make sure it doesn’t boil – you’re looking for little bubbles and lots of steam.

4. Whisk in the egg yolks; as they become warm, the yolks will increase in size. When the whisk starts to leave trails in the sauce, take off the heat.

5. Steady your bowl on a tea towel to keep from slipping and slowly incorporate your clarified butter and dulse.

For the crispy samphire:

1. Mix the paprika and cornflour together. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and milk.

2. Coat the samphire in egg mix, then dip in the cornflour mix and deep fry until crispy.

To serve:

Serve the brace of witch hot, garnished with the crispy samphire and mint, with a generous side of dulse hollandaise.

The Pierhouse Hotel & Seafood Restaurant, Port Appin, Argyll

The Pierhouse Hotel’s ‘Wee Winter Break’ offer includes an overnight stay, dinner and full Scottish breakfast. Prices start from £125 per couple, sharing a double room on a bed and breakfast basis until Sunday 29th March 2020.

For more information on ‘Wee Winter Breaks’ at The Pierhouse Hotel or to make a booking, call 01631 730302, email reservations@pierhousehotel.co.uk or visit www.pierhousehotel.co.uk

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