We had wild sea bass from Kent in the box this week, that beautiful fish with firm white flesh and silvery sheen and I was determined to do my fish justice. So it was perfect timing that one of my favourite Italians happened to be in town this week and offered to spend an afternoon in the kitchen showing me some of her Livornese cooking secrets.
Meet Rosetta, the gracious, loveable Italian mama you always wanted.
After the ceremonial greeting with kisses on both cheeks, forehead, both cheeks again, she took me by the hand into the kitchen, we donned our aprons and rolled up our sleeves.
We cooked the sea bass 2 ways. Spigola Arrosto (roast sea bass), a beautifully simple whole roasted fish with rosemary, garlic, lemon & olive oil (lots of it). And the other one went a little something like this...
Rosetta's Spigola alla Catalana (Catalan sea bass)
Sea bass x 2, scaled & gutted
Potatoes, thinly sliced (enough to make a bed for your fish)
Bunch of cherry tomatoes
A few sprigs of rosemary
4 cloves of garlic
Olive oil (be generous!)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1. Cover the bottom of a baking dish with very thinly sliced potatoes to create a bed for your fish. We cut each potato into quarters, then sliced each quarter into thin slices.
2. Scatter a bunch of halved cherry tomatoes over the potatoes, then douse with olive oil and lots of salt and pepper.
3. Place your scaled & gutted fish on top of the potato bed. Sprinkle a good bit of chopped garlic into each cavity, then lots of salt and freshly ground black pepper and a good glug of olive oil.
4. Stuff a cherry tomato and a sprig of rosemary into the gills, and another into the belly cavity.
5. Pronto! It's ready for the oven. Bake for a good 45 mins until the potatoes are nice and tender. I thought the fish might overcook for this length of time, but they were perfect. By cooking the fish whole and with the generous olive oil dousing, everything kept lovely and moist.
Rosetta served up the fish with a simple green salad and the most delicious buttery, cheesy sauteed brussel sprout dish I've ever had (turns out that one's a bit of a family secret).
Top tips I took away? Keep it simple, don't skimp on the olive oil and embrace cooking with the whole fish! If you do you'll get heaps more flavour and your fish will stay moist, delicious and just plain finger licking good.
Grazie Rosetta! And a massive thank you to our boys in Dungeness for braving the midnight seas and catching us these beauties.