I didn’t actually cook this meal but I ate it, and it was so glorious I just felt the need to share the glory. And the reason for the glory – although it was of course masterfully cooked (by Lady Nick, in Southwold, which is where we were) – is the simplicity of the ingredients, plus that they were all local: wild sea bass, caught on Saturday morning, eaten that night with a lemon, butter and caper sauce and Norfolk asparagus, first crop; plus delicious purple sprouting broccoli and a giant mushroom baked with garlic.
I have always been a bit spooked by the idea of cooking whole fish, partly because I’m wimpily freaked out by the head and tail, but Lady Nick de-mystified the process mainly by leading by example, but also informing me that it’s good to keep the head on because when the eyes go white it means it’s cooked (bit gross, but helpful). Also, I think it does taste better cooked whole than in fillets.
Now that asparagus is in season I strongly feel that we are all morally obliged to eat it every single night for the next six weeks, ideally with dollops of freshly made mustardy mayonnaise. But that is another story and another blog post. So, stand by for that. (I know: hold on to your hats!).
Oh yes and the other thing to mention is I just wrote this guest mumsnet post about the worry that people think you are making it all up when you have to declare that you are on a restricted diet. (I used to the the person doing the eye-rolling, which is how I know that this sometimes occurs). Does that resonate with you?
Whole roasted seabass
One whole sea bass, gutted cleaned and de-scaled
2 tablespoons capers
50-100 g of butter (depending on how many are eating)
Preheat oven to 180 fan/200 non-fan. Wash the sea bass inside and out, and pat dry with kitchen paper. Score across the fish and through the skin 4-5 times on each side, then put it on a large piece of oiled foil, big enough to wrap it up loosely. Season inside and out then stuff the inside with slices of 1 lemon, a tablespoon of capers and some chunks of butter. Rub the skin with a bit of olive oil and loosely wrap the parcel. Then bake for about 25 minutes depending on size (remembering the eyes-going-white rule). Let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes before opening the parcel.
While it is resting, make the sauce by putting the butter in a pan with the zest of one lemon and the juice of 2, a table spoon of capers and salt and pepper. Melt and drizzle onto the fish, which you have cut off the bone into squares then serve with your veg of choice (as long as that includes asparagus).