Seafood Recipes, vegetables

WFD: Spice rubbed Sturgeon, roasted parsnips and sauteed dino kale. Oh, and not forgetting one rather spicy boy

March 6, 2008


I wasn’t sure whether to post this one or not. I rather quickly decided to take photos, and didn’t have any kind of lighting setup, or any idea about a game-plan for photographing. Yep, it is true, now-a-days when I am going to photograph a recipe, I haul a light, bounce sheets, and sometimes my laptop into the kitchen, and make a few notes about what I want to shoot, and even do some rather bad drawings.

I only decided to break out the camera when Drake (our son) decided that pulling all of the spices out of the spice drawer would indeed be hysterical, and also rather helpful. It actually was pretty helpful, he managed to pull out almost all the spices I wanted to use on the sturgeon.. Good lad!

Danika and I really like to try and find ways to get Drake involved in the kitchen. A month ago, he helped make the dough (well, help might not be the right word..) for some rather great Naan bread, when we made a curry. He has been in the kitchen since, prodding stuff that I am about to cook, watching intently as I dart between stove and prep area. He is also rather helpful when I want the oven light or convection fan turned on, those two switches are the best thing in the kitchen ever, if you asked him, and if he could talk.

We were doing some shopping in Whole Foods in Bellevue this week, and they had some fresh wild sturgeon from the Columbia River at the fish counter. I would have preferred to go down to Mutual Fish, but it was late, and I couldn’t be bothered with the extra drive. So, I bought some sturgeon, and a few other things.

I don’t recall ever cooking sturgeon, but I do know that it is a rather meaty fish, that has a distinct earthy flavor. I also know the fish is bloody huge, and pig ugly, but that doesn’t really matter here.

So what to do with it. Not one for a hugely earthy flavor to my fish, I decided a spice rub would be in order. Normally I don’t spice rub my fish (occasionally tilapia actually..), but I thought what the heck, this could be a laugh. For Drake it certainly was.

The spice rub is a mix of a few spices – mostly Indian – green cardamon, cumin seed, corriander seed, clove, black pepper and a wee bit of salt. This all got ground up in a small (freebie) coffee grinder I have, that I reserve for grinding spices. It is important to note that grinding spices is now hilarious for Drake, but mostly down to the “spice grinding dance” that I now have to do every time I grind spice (because Drake enjoys it….). If you ever saw the old commercial for Guinness stout, with the bloke dancing around waiting for his pint to settle – you get the picture.

I couldn’t decide what to serve this sturgeon with, so I quickly part boiled and roasted some parsnips, and sauteed up some kale in butter, garlic and lemon juice.

The fish was really great – the rub wasn’t too strong, very flavorful, but it did detract somewhat from the unique taste of sturgeon.

NOTE: This is where I get on my high horse. If you can, don’t buy pre-ground spices unless you can help it. The only ground spice I used here was the cinnamon, and that was only because I was out of sticks.. You will get a much better flavor if you use whole seeds, and grind as much as you need to use for your dish. Ground spices, like coffee, loose their flavor quickly. Also when toasting the spices, make sure not to toast for too long, otherwise they will end up bitter.

Spice rubbed sturgeon, roasted parsnips, sauteed kale

3/4lb sturgeon fillet, cut into two pieces

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp cumin seed

1/2 tsp corriander seed

2 cloves

2 green cardamon pods, seeds removed and kept, pods discarded

5 black peppercorns

pinch of sea salt

1 bunch of kale – sliced across leaf into 1/2″ slices

3 medium parsnips – peeled, and cut into quarters lengthwise


olive oil

1 clove of garlic – crushed.

juice of 1/2 lemon (scant)

small handful of chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 450F

Start by getting a large pan of water on the boil. When boiling, bung in the parsnips, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until almost tender. Strain, and run under cold water to stop the cooking process if your oven isn’t up to temperature yet.

Whilst these are boiling away, put a medium sized roasting pan in the oven. When hot, remove and add 1/2 tablespoon of butter to the pan. I like to keep the pan hot over a burner as I do this. Toss in the parsnips when the butter is melted and fizzling. Add a small pinch of salt. Gently toss to coat. Pop this back in the oven for about 35 minutes, until the parsnips are golden and crispy.

Whilst the parnsips are roasting, make the spice rub. Put all the spices in a small saute pan (not the salt), and gently toast over a low heat. Put the spices into either a spice grinder, or small coffee grinder, add a pinch of salt, and grind until you get a fine powder. Do a little dance if you want to keep exactly to the recipe.. It helps the spices, honest.

Coat your sturgeon fillets in a little olive oil. Spread out your spice blend on a plate, and dredge the sturgeon, flesh side down, in the spices.


In a non-stick pan over a medium heat, add a little olive oil. Place in the sturgeon, spice side to the heat, when the oil is hot. Seer this for about 5 minutes – until the spices are golden. Flip the fish over, and put the fish in the pan into the oven. Turn the oven down to 350. You want to do this when the parsnips are just about done. Cook in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the sturgeon is cooked all the way through.

When the sturgeon has about 5 minutes to go, in a large saute pan melt a tablespoon of butter with a little olive oil. Add the clove of garlic, and cook for 30 seconds. Now add in the kale, and a pinch of salt. Cook this until the kale has wilted, but is still reasonably firm to the bite. Squeeze in your lemon juice, and add the parsley.

To plate – put a neat pile of kale on a plate, and top with some parsnips. Pop the sturgeon fillet, spice side up on top.

The sweetness of the parsnip goes great with the slightly bitter kale leaf, with a kick being provided by a great spice rub.


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  • Muffin March 6, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    I am so making this for dinner tonight. It looks DELICIOUS.

  • White On Rice Couple March 6, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    Danika is your future sous chef…we can see it already. He is adorable and you should teach him to speak and spell all your pantry spices before he enters kindergarten! He shows talent already, pulling out just the spices you need for this marvelous Sturgeon.
    The Whole Foods in our area doesn’t seem to have the same freshness of seafood that you guys get up in Seattle. We have much better luck as Santa Monica Seafood.

  • matt wright March 6, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    Drake is our son, Danika is my wife, but I get what you mean 😀 They both make great sous chefs I have to say, and Danika is amazing at breakfasts.

    Whole Foods varies a lot. In general I don’t like buying from them for a few reasons. The first is really consitancy – The one Whole Foods I go to is good, but one that is 10 miles away, in downtown Seattle is really bad for seafood, I just don’t get it. They also have absolutely no idea how to store mussels, clams and sushi grade tuna. To top it off, if you ask them what is really fresh at the moment they ALWAYS say “Everything!!! We get it fresh in every day”.. Two things I hate about that – I don’t know how long it has been dead for, and you cannot tell me that they shift the entire seafood stand in a day, to get completely new stuff in the next.

    In short, you have to pick and choose at the location I go to, and trust your own knowledge, certainly not the people behind the desk. They have been briefed on what to say “this salmon comes from blah blah blah”, but that is it.

    I much prefer local independantly owned seafood companies. There is a couple of good ones in Seattle – Mutual Fish ( is my favorite. A Japanese run fish market ,that is completely awesome. What these guys don’t know about fish isn’t worth knowing.

  • Anticiplate March 7, 2008 at 3:18 am

    Beautiful photography! Thanks for leading me here:)

  • MPG March 8, 2008 at 5:13 am

    Hi Matt, Lara told me more about your site. I must say that being a vegetarian I can’t say much about the fish, but the greens sound yummy and the photos are beautiful and so is your son. I’ll be checking out more…glad to find another great local blog.

  • matt wright March 8, 2008 at 5:46 am

    Anticiplate – thanks, the same can be said for your site!
    MPG – thanks for stopping by! I have the greatest respect for Lara, she is an amazing food photographer that has never once not replied to the countless emails I send her on food photography. She even gave me a quick photography course one lunchtime. Everyone should go check out her website at – it makes you want to give up now, but also makes you completely inspired to go into the kitchen, cook something awesome and photograph it.