A semi-oily fish, it has a sweet, intense flavour, gelatinous skin and a meaty, forgiving texture, making it suitable for many Spanish Island dishes, whether they’re stewed, grilled, baked or fried.






Skill level

Average: 3.3 (11 votes)


  • 100 g (3½ oz) fine sea salt
  • 1.4 kg (3 lb 1 oz) John Dory, gutted and cleaned
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1½ tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 50 g (1¾ oz) cold butter, cubed
  • 35 g (1¼ oz) capers, drained and rinsed
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
  • dill or fennel fronds, to serve

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Sitting time: 45 minutes

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F) fan-forced. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Rub the salt all over the fish, including inside the cavity. Set aside for 30 minutes.
  3. Wipe the salt off the fish using paper towel and pat dry as much as you can. Set aside for a further 15 minutes to air-dry some more. Keep dabbing the fish with paper towel if liquid continues to leach out.
  4. Stuff the fish cavity with half the lemon, the thyme sprigs and garlic and transfer to the prepared tray. Score the fish a few times, including a vertical slit from the head to the tail.
  5. Evenly rub the oil on both sides of the fish, then transfer to the oven and bake for 15–20 minutes, until golden and cooked through. Allow the fish to rest, loosely covered, while you make the sauce.
  6. Heat half the butter in a frying pan over medium–high heat. Crush the capers with the flat side of a knife and add them to the pan when the butter begins to foam. Sauté for 3–4 minutes, until the capers begin to fry and crisp, then stir through the remaining lemon slices for 1 minute and add the lemon juice. Cook until the liquid has reduced by one-third, then season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining butter, swirling the pan until the butter is completely melted and the sauce is thick and shiny.
  7. Fold through the dill or fennel fronds and spoon a few tablespoons of the sauce over the fish. Serve the fish with an abundance of extra sauce on the side and your favourite side salad.


Recipes and images from Islas: Food of the Spanish Islands by Emma Warren, Smith Street Books, RRP $49.99