• Serves: 4
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 20-25 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy

This is such a simple dinner but feels like a real feast. The sight of those plump, glistening sea bass emerging from the oven with their punchy breadcrumb topping is quite spectacular.

It’’s always lovely to serve a whole fish to a guest for dinner, I think. There’’s something very impressive about such a sight. Yet, it’’s actually the easiest way to cook fish: no worrying about drying it out to a crisp in a hot pan, or ending up with soggy skin, or faffing around frying fillets at the last minute.

This is one of the simplest recipes I know for cooking whole fish, but it’’s also one of the most delicious and visually stunning. I originally found it in Diana Henry’’s cookbook Food From Plenty, and have adapted it to suit my tastes (i.e. more garlic, everything always needs more garlic, in my opinion, and more bread, so you get even more delicious crust). You top white fish (you can use bass or bream) with a gorgeous brick-red crust of breadcrumbs, paprika, garlic, parsley, and lots of lemon juice and olive oil. I also like to bake the fish on a bed of greens. Here I’’ve used kale –and capers, which stays lovely and moist under the fish and crisps up where it’’s exposed to the heat of the oven, giving a nice texture contrast (and meaning you don’’t have to bother cooking separate veg).

All you really need alongside are some buttered new potatoes, and lemon to squeeze over. This is one of those recipes that takes good ingredients and lets them shine without too much over complicating. Try and get the best, sustainable fish you can, and enjoy.

 

here's how it's done...

  • 150g kale, spinach or spring greens
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 4 sea bass, gutted and scaled
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • 50g white breadcrumbs
  • 5 tsp smoked paprika
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon wedges, to serve

sea bass ingredients

 

how to tackle a whole fish

Eat the flesh off the top of the fish first (avoiding the fins –just pull them out), until you’’re left with just the underside flesh and the bone running across the top. Pull the head up gently (or just the top of the bone where the head would be, if your fish doesn’t have a head on), and it should take the bone with it, pulling it cleanly off the flesh with the tail. Then you’’re just left with the remaining flesh to tuck into. Watch out for bones, as there will still be a few that don’’t pull out, and those pesky fins!

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set oven temp: 200C/gas mark 6

here's how it's done...

  • 1

    Pre-heat the oven to 200C (180C fan). On a baking sheet or dish large enough to fit the sea bass side by side, scatter over the kale and capers and drizzle with a little olive oil. Put the fish on top, so they’’re just touching but not overlapping. Drizzle the fish with a little olive oil, squeeze over some lemon juice, and season well.

    sea bass step 3

  • 2

    In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, paprika and garlic. Season well.

    sea bass step 2

  • 3

    Spoon over the fish (don’’t cover the heads or tails, just the flesh in the middle). Drizzle over some more olive oil and squeeze over the rest of the lemon juice. Bake for 15 minutes.

    sea bass step 4

  • 4

    After 15 minutes, scatter over the parsley.

    sea bass step 5

  • 5

    Bake for another 5 minutes, or 10 if the fish are large: you want to cook them until the flesh is just opaque.

    sea bass post image 2

    Serve the fish with the kale from underneath, more lemon to squeeze over, and some steamed or roasted new potatoes.

     

 
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By Elly McCausland on 23.05.14

Guest Contributor

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