Kitchen Life

Baked Sea Bass with Garlic, Paprika and Lemon Crust

Added by Elly McCausland

Elly McCausland

Elly McCausland

Kitchen Life

Kitchen Life

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. Despite how easy it is to cook and serve whole fish, I think this is something we still associate more with restaurant-style cooking than good old homemade meals. 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. Just put the fish in the oven with your chosen flavourings (which can be as simple as a pinch of salt and a trickle of olive oil), leave for 20 minutes or so (obviously depending on the size of your fish), then serve.

 

 

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. Although a strong flavour, it actually complements the sweet, firm flesh of white fish incredibly well, keeping it moist too as it cooks. 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).

 

 

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.

 

 

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 overcomplicating – try and get the best, sustainable fish you can, and enjoy.

 

Baked Sea Bass with Garlic, Paprika and Lemon Crust

Serves: 4

Cooking Time: 20-25 min

Prep Time: 10 min

Oven Temperature

Fan Assisted: 180 degrees

Gas: Mark 6

Conventional: 200 degrees

Ingredients

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

 

Here’s what you’ll need…

 

 

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

 

And here’s how it’s done…

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. 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.

 

 

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

 

 

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.

 

 

After 15 minutes, scatter over the parsley.

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

An aside… Lots of people always ask me how one goes about tackling a whole fish when it’s on your plate. It’s simple. 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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Elly McCausland

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Elly McCausland

Elly McCausland is a food writer and blogger, and is also studying for a PhD – on children’s literature and the Arthurian legend – at the University of York. On her food blog, Nutmegs, Seven, she indulges her obsession with all things gastronomic; particular passions include fruit, breakfast, proper British puddings, Middle Eastern and South East Asian cuisine. When not eating or reading, she spends her free time travelling and counteracting her love of food by doing a lot of sport. All images on Elly's posts unless otherwise stated copyright Elly McCausland.