COOKING with Tatiana Bento – August

From Marmalade Cookery School

Easy to follow recipe

Tatiana always advocates cooking fish and meat on the bone wherever possible. Here she cooks sea bass whole in a salt crust.

SEA BASS BAKED IN A SALT CRUST

with poached new potatoes and balsamic mayo

It’s summer, it’s warm and bass are in season, so it’s time to cook fish my favourite way. Get those taste buds ready…

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Punched new potatoes

SERVES 2

Ingredients:

400g small new potatoes

Sea salt

Extra virgin olive oil

5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

How to make:

Start by setting your oven to 180C/ 350F/ Gas4.

Wash your potatoes and place them in the oven, on a tray with a good pinch of salt, for 45 minutes. This is the perfect time to get your fish ready, so get cracking on that.

Tip #1: The timing depends hugely on the quality of your potatoes so check if they are soft after 45 minutes. If they are not, give them a bit more time to cook.

After 45 minutes (and by now your fish should have gone in) remove your potatoes from the oven. Wrap each one in a clean tea towel and give them a punch so the skin audibly ‘cracks’ and they get slightly squashed, return them to the oven tray and repeat with all the other potatoes.

Prepare your olive oil and garlic flavouring. Get a small sauce pan and pour in a good glug or two of a nice quality olive oil. Place it over a medium flame and once hot add the finely chopped garlic. Remove from the heat immediately and pour over your ‘punched’ potatoes.

Return them to the oven and cook for further 15 minutes.

Serve with your delicious fish.

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Sea bass in salt crust

SERVES 2

Ingredients:

1 600g line caught sea bass gutted,

but with scales on

1 small bunch of fennel

½ a lemon, sliced

Freshly ground black pepper

1 kg of coarse sea salt

2 large free range egg whites

1 tbsp of fennel seeds

How to make:

If your oven wasn’t on already because of your potatoes, set it now to 180C/ 350F/ Gas4.

This dish is all about enhancing the flavours of the fish with minimal fuss, so you want to get the freshest fish available to you.

Tip #1:  How do you tell your fish is fresh? Since you’ll be buying the fish whole it makes the job easier. Have a look at the fish’s head; it wants to be clear of blood and have bright clear eyes. The fish’s body wants to be straight, without blood and with bright clear scales. Also it should only smell of the sea and nothing else.

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Tip #2:  You don’t have to use sea bass, try a bream, a small cod or even a trout; they will all come out beautifully as long as they are fresh. Also go ahead and choose bigger fish, you’ll only have to change the cooking time (and make sure it fits in your oven).

Right, now that you have chosen your fish it’s time to prepare it. This is the crucial stage of this dish; you want to ask your fishmonger to gut your fish but not scale it or remove the gill plates. We can promise you that this cooking method produces the best fish you have tried but it’s essential that the fish is cooked whole as it will be inedible if you do it any other way, so keep your fish head on… it won’t bite…. I promise.

Now that your fish is chosen and gutted it’s time to give it some extra flavours. Open the belly cavity and sprinkle with a bit of freshly ground black pepper, place a couple of slices of lemon in there and stuff the rest of the cavity with the fennel leaves, making sure it’s really full.

Tip #3:  I love fennel and fish but you might want to try other flavours, parsley, basil or chervil all go really well with fish so go ahead and experiment.

Baking fish in salt means you will be creating an oven inside an oven so you need to make sure your salt holds its shape and seals the fish, baking it in its own juices. Grab a big bowl and pour all the salt in there (yes all 1 kg of it… I know it looks too much – but trust me it won’t go into the fish), then add the fennel seeds and the 2 egg whites; mix well until you have a kind of a slush.

Tip #4:  If you are using a bigger fish you’ll need more of this salt mixture so don’t forget to increase the quantity.

Right, on to the fun part now…. get an oven tray and place a thin but even layer of salt mixture on the bottom of the tray. Lay your fish onto the salt and gently pour the remaining salt on top of the fish patting it down in order to compact it and seal all the holes.

Tip #5:  You really want to seal this baby up, otherwise the cooking steam will escape and the fish will dry out. Place the tray in the oven for 25 minutes while you finish your potatoes, do your salad and balsamic mayo.

Tip #6:  If you are cooking a bigger fish you have to change your cooking times. The trick is to cook the fish for 20 minutes for each 500g so always weigh your fish before starting to make this dish.

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Once the time is over remove the tray from the oven and gently stab the tip of a knife all along the sides of the fish in order to release it. Remove the top layer of salt (it should come off in one piece) and pull the skin off.

Tip #7:  Please be careful during this process as the salt crust can go quite hard making it difficult to penetrate it with your knife. Also watch out when you lift the “salt lid” as hot steam will be released.

Serve it whole at the table so everyone can help them-selves to pieces of juicy fish, fresh summer salad, punched potatoes and balsamic mayo.

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Simple Balsamic Mayonnaise dip

SERVES 2

Ingredients:

4 tbsp of good quality mayonnaise

Sea salt

1 clove of garlic, grated

Balsamic vinegar, to taste

How to make:

This is a pretty simple dip but what can I say – it goes really well with this fish recipe. I use homemade mayonnaise here it’s a lot tastier in my opinion; but good quality shop bought mayo will do the trick.

Mix all the ingredients together, adjust salt and vinegar to taste and serve with your fish.

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