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.