Sainsbury’s, you need a recipe editor

I can’t resist browsing recipes, even if they’re in outdated women’s magazines in a tatty pile at the doctor’s office or, in this case, in a Sainsbury’s ad circular with the weekend papers entitled Executive Chef. I’m glad I did read this item over breakfast this morning, because it contained a doozy, the most nonsensical thing I’ve ever seen in print. At first I thought it was a historic recipe, or perhaps something from Harry Potter, but it really made no sense at all. As I squinted at it I realized it must have been written in Spanish (or Basque?) and cranked through Google Translate, which used to be Babelfish – a web-based machine translation tool. The amazing thing is that, clearly, no native English speaker bothered to read the result before it went into print. The rest of the circular is fairly shoddily edited as well, but none is as much fun as this.

Juan Mari Arzak’s Pretty in Bonfire of Grudges

For the gravy of skins and grudges:

30 g       of bread
1             tomato
2            chives
60 g      of skins with grudges of pretty (black)
200 g   of olive oil o’ 4
70 g      of 20 fried almonds
g            of vinegar of Módena

For the backs of pretty:

600 g    of pretty
Salt, jengibre in dust

For the red oil of pepper:

10 g       of red pepper
60 g      of olive oil o ‘ 4

For the gravy of skins and grudges:

To cut the tomato and to pass it through the plate with a little of oil. On the other hand, to fry with half of the oil the skins of pretty until they are crujientes. To slip them well.
To mix all the ingredients. To crush and to strain. To ripen.

For the backs of pretty:

To cut the back of pretty in rectangles (2 you unite. to /per.). One of the rectangles will have to be something greater than the other. To ripen, to give point of jengibre to grease the gravy and to pass it through the plate leaving the substantial back.

For the red oil of pepper:

To each other to rub well all grains of pepper. To recover single the skins and to mix them with the oil. To reserve.


In center of the plate to place the backs of pretty standing up. To its side, with the aid of a tube, to draw circles with the gravy of skins. Salsear slightly on the backs of pretty the pepper oil.

Delightful, isn’t it? But probably not quite what the recipe author had in mind; the English bit of Arzak’s own website, while not entirely idiomatic, was at least written by a human.

Here’s a guess at what the recipe-writer may have intended; remember, mine is not from the original Spanish but from the crazy not-quite-English above!

Juan Mari Arzak’s Bonito with Sauce of Grilled Scales

30 g bread
1 tomato
2 chives
60 g skin of black bonito with scales
200 g olive oil
70 g fried almonds (about 20)
15 g Módena vinegar [about a tablespoon; this is purely a guess]
salt and sugar

For the bonito fillets:

600 g bonito (4 fillets, about 150 g each)
Salt, powdered ginger

For the red pepper oil:

10 g ground sweet red pepper [again, a guess, but I think hot would be a bit much here]
60 g olive oil

To make the bonito scale sauce:

Cut the tomato and and pass it through a sieve with a little oil. Fry the bonito skins in this purée and the rest of the oil until they are crisp. Mix all the ingredients, crushing the fish skins, bread, and almonds; strain; and set aside.

To cook the bonito fillets:

Cut the fillets into rectangles, 2 per person, making one rectangle somewhat bigger than the other. Marinate the ginger in the sauce. [Here’s where it gets really obscure, so I’m completely making up the next bit]. Sauté the bonito in a bit of oil on both sides, so that the skin is crispy and the flesh is opaque.

To make the red pepper oil:

Mix the red pepper grains with the oil and set aside.


Stand up the cooked bonito fillets in the center of the plate. Alongside, with a spoon or a piping bag, draw circles with the scale sauce. Drizzle small drops of pepper oil on the fish.


Sainsbury’s, if you need any help with such items in future, my Spanish isn’t bad, I know my way around a recipe, and I’m available. Just call.



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10 responses to “Sainsbury’s, you need a recipe editor

  1. Jane Warren

    Yes, it was unbelievable that this drivel got past any editor. I have already emailed the publishing company. However, it was a giggle – English as she is spoke!

  2. Genette

    It was so funny I had to google it. I actually found this sensible translation of, presumably, the original:

    Smoked Bonito in Red Peppercorn Oil
    Ingredients: (to make four servings)
    For the fish skins thick sauce:
    1/2 cup bread crumbs 1 tomato 2 small onions 5 tablespoons of the bonito skin with scales (the black part) 1 cup of olive oil
    1/2 cup of toasted almonds 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (from Modena region, if possible!) salt sugar
    For the Bonito filets:
    1 1/2 lbs. Bonito filets salt ginger powder
    For the pickle sauce:
    (At the restaurant, the pickle sauce is served in front of the customer.) 4 tablespoons fresh parsley 1/2 cup of pickles in vinegar, drained 2 cups water
    5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1/4 cup bread crumbs salt
    For the red peppercorn oil:
    3 teaspoons red peppercorns 5 tablespoons exrtra virgin olive oil
    Preparation: To prepare the fish skins thick sauce:
    Chop up the tomato and sauté it lightly in 1/2 cup of olive oil. In another pan, sauté the fish skins in the other 1/2 cup of olive oil, until they are
    golden brown and crispy. Remove from pan, drain well and pat out most of the oil. Mix all the ingredients; grind lightly with a food processor and add seasoning.
    To prepare the bonito filets: -Cut the bonito filets in rectangles. (See photo, one rectangle should be
    larger than the other.) Lightly smoke the filets for four minutes in a smoker.
    -Next, season with ginger powder, add the thick sauce, and return the filets to the cooking pan. (This will leave the filet very juicy.)
    To prepare the pickle sauce: -Chop pickles in a food processor, drain and season.
    To prepare the red peppercorn oil:
    -Rub the red peppercorns together, keep only the skins and mix well with the oil.
    Place the bonito filets upright in the center of the plate. With the help of a tube or chopstick, draw circles using the fish sauce. Accent with the red peppercorn oil and serve with the pickle sauce, heated.

  3. Mario Menti

    Shame, “Pretty in Bonfire of Grudges” sounds so much better 🙂

    But thank you, me and my wife have been reading the supplement this morning, and have been trying to find out what kind of fish “pretty” is – a Google search actually brought me to this page!

    • Mario, according to WordPress stats, lots of curious people like you have gotten here by googling. See comment above for a better translation – from the actual Spanish, presumably – if you want to try the recipe!

  4. Jim

    I enjoyed your post and, no doubt, will return to your blog.

  5. Joan

    Emily, had dinner with your dad last night (we are friends from early, early Cambridge days) and he gave me your wonderful blog address. I quite randomly fell on this post and did so enjoy it. Couldn’t resist sharing with you a few restaurant menu items, the first two from Greece : “Fried god” (hardly unexpected, given the location) and “roast kitten.” In Venice, “owen rhombus,” boiled polyps,” and “fried toad brush.” Confess to having laughed ourselves nearly to tears each time.
    I look forward to reading more from you. Thank you!

  6. Flo

    Excellent work.I thought I had taken leave of my senses when I read this recipe in the shoddy Sainsbury’s supplement about half an hour ago. I guessed it was a bad case of unedited auto translation but was very curious as to what the hell it was meant to be. Parts of it I could work out, but others were a surreal mystery. So I keyed the phrase ‘pretty in bonfire of grudges’ into Twitter (not something I ever imagined I would do), and found a link to you enlightening blog. Your detective work makes the published version even funnier. Thanks!

  7. Jane

    Delighted to find this full solution to the mystery. We’d kept this appalling attempt at a publication for its entertainment value and had only got so far with working out what the original recipe might have been. I can add that bonito is a type of tuna; and olive oil o’ 4 (which had us mystified for ages) must be olive oil 0.4% (usually an acidity measure), which in Spanish would of course be written 0,4. As you say, the publication is peppered with other errors, not least the punctuation in the so-called editors (sic) letter, e.g. they have misspelt Tom Aikens as Aitkins. I find it hard to believe the chefs concerned or Sainsbury’s would want to be associated with it.

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