Restaurant standard impressive and rather doable
People think sea bass is a posh fish. The sort of fish you eat wearing a tie. The sort of fish you can only eat in a restaurant or at a wedding. The sort of fish that you would eat on date. This is simply not the case! Home cooks, hear ye, hear ye sea bass is wonderful and easy to cook and eat at home. Even if you aren't wearing a tie.
It is quite a firm fish, with a lovely juicy bite to it. The skin crisps up nicely and has the ability to take on punchy flavours. Lots of people use it in curry. For this recipe I have accompanied it with spicy chickpeas and a watermelon pickle that enhances the freshness of the fish. Don't be put off by the fruit here - trust me that it works an absolute treat.
I am rather blessed by a brilliant fishmonger near me in Hackney - www.suttonandsonsfishmongers.co.uk so if you are in the area, do drop by. They are very friendly and can gut a fish quicker than you can say Moby Dick. Don't panic if you don't have a fishmonger or you can't find sea bass you could use something easily available in a supermarket such as cod, haddock or pollock. Just make sure it has a skin to it for the pan frying.
For the Watermelon Pickle
300g watermelon cubed
1 shallot finely chopped
Half a conference pear, very thinly sliced lengthways or use a peeler
zest and juice of 1 lime
2 tsp honey
1 small bunch fresh coriander with stalks
2 tsp coriander seed crushed
1.5 tbsp white wine vinegar
For the Spiced Chickpeas
2 cans chickpeas drained
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1.5 tsps chilli powder
1.5 tsps cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1tbsp sesame oil
Salt and pepper
For the sea bass
4 fillets of sea bass (the fishmonger should fillet these for you)
Zest and juice of one lime
Small handful chopped fresh coriander
Small pot of natural yogurt
Plus: 300g tenderstem broccoli
How to do it all:
1. Pre heat the oven to 180C (fan). Line a large baking tray with sides with greaseproof paper. Empty in the drained chickpeas.
2. Cover with all the spices and oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Mix it all together until everything is combined. Put in the pre heated oven for 40 mins, check half way through and give the tray a good shake around to ensure even cooking.
3. After you have put the chickpeas in the oven, find a tray or bowl for the fish, score each fillet 3 times skin side and cover in the chopped fresh coriander and zest and juice of the lime. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cover in cling film and put in the fridge for 15-20 mins.
4. Put the watermelon, shallot, coriander seed in a bowl and mix until combined.
5. Add the zest and juice of the lime, white wine vinegar, chopped fresh coriander with stalks, honey and pepper and mix. Gently add in the pear last. Careful not to snap the lengths of the pear. Cover and put in the fridge until its time to plate up.
6. Heat a frying pan or griddle until very hot. Remove the fish from the marinade and put skin side down on the pan and push it down. Whilst this is happening, bring some salted water to the boil, add the broccoli, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender (around 4 mins). Cook the sea bass for 3-4 mins on the skin side, until the skin is crispy and brown. Then turn the fish over and cook flesh side down for 2 mins. Remove and rest on a warm plate for a couple of mins or so.
7. Now you are ready to serve. Arrange a bed of the roasted chickpeas on a plate, stack on the tenderstem broccoli, place a sea bass fillet on top and surround with the watermelon pickle. Serve with another drizzle of sesame oil and put a small pot of natural yogurt on the table, so people can add it if the feel the need!