In France white sea bass is called ‘bar blanc’. This is a simple and tasty way to prepare a healthy meal without spending hours in the kitchen.
Menu Rapide • Baked Sea Bass with Basil.
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves 4 people
4 small bass, gutted and de-scaled.
Some white wine
Preheat the oven to 200C degrees.On a piece of buttered foil or ovenproof paper place some slices of onion and tomato. Place the sea bass on top and place some basil leaves on its back. Season with black pepper and salt. Make a sealed packet of the foil and just before sealing it, add a little white wine to keep it moist. It is important to make sure that the packet is sealed well as you are steaming the fish in the wine and its own natural juices. Repeat with the other three fish ( I find it easier to do each fish individually, but you can put all 4 in the same packet).
Cook in a hot over for about 20 minutes – do not over cook it as fish is better slightly undercooked on the bone.
Serve in the packet or open each one up and slide the fish onto plates. Decorate with lemon or lime wedges and accompanied by a crisp green salad or some green vegetables, and a few boiled potatoes tossed in parsley butter.
Some people steer away from fish because of the difficulty in filleting and descaling. There are two ways to deal with this. Find a good fishmonger that will prepare the fish or do it yourself!
Here are some useful tips. To gut a fish, start near the tail and go towards the head, cutting along the underside of the fish. Cut through the insides and discard them, then wash the fish under the tap, scrape out any veins that may have remained.
To fillet a fish, start just behind the head. Cut into the back of the fish and cut along the fish, keep parallel to the backbone and as close to it as possible. Then, cut downwards behind the gills and at the tail. For a second fillet, repeat on the other side.
To skin the fillet, hold the tail end in a cloth and start to separate the flesh with your knife. This is the trickiest part – keep the knife at an acute angle to the surface and pull the skin from side to side towards you – it sounds complicated but it actually an easy method of skinning fillets.
If you need to descale the fish take hold of the tail with a damp cloth and with the blunt side of a knife scrap at an angle towards the head – you will find that the scales come off quite easily. Always do this with a fresh fish as when the scales dry out they become very difficult to remove.
Keep the bones and make some stock with them to enhance any sauce (you can freeze in a sealed bag).Don’t be scared of cooking fish – not only is it a healthy option but it always looks and tastes very good.
•With thanks to Chef Chris Lacey
Illustration by Rebecca Houldershaw