Pan-fried Sea Bream with Griddled Vegetables

I went both healthy and summery tonight with supper. Healthy from a desire for something lighter on the stomach after an Easter weekend full of more desserts and – of course! – chocolate than usual. Summery, because the sun was shining today but without that lovely warmth of a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I’d bring summer to my dinner table.

I had griddled vegetables on my mind for supper all day and toyed with the idea of some chicken, marinated in olive oil and lemon juice and simply griddled too, to go with them. But then, passing the excellent fishmonger in Twickenham this afternoon – Sandys- I decided on fish instead. I chose a gilt-head sea bream (one of my favourite fishes) of a size big enough for two and asked them to fillet it for me. One fillet would be for supper; the other would go into the freezer for another day.

This was another supper – like last night’s Tortiglioni all’Amatriciana – that was all last-minute cooking and requiring that everything was prepared before cooking began.

The choice of vegetables is up to you, really, and may depend on what’s in your fridge. Mine contained courgettes, red onion, an orange sweet pepper and some large tomatoes. I often add aubergine too to griddled vegetables like this, but didn’t have one and anyway, supper was for one, so I thought four vegetables enough.

I poured some extra virgin olive oil into a bowl and crumbled in a mix of dried herbs – herbs I had growing in my garden last year that I picked in the autumn and dried in small bundles: oregano, mint and thyme. I then added some salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Now, cut the pepper into quarters; thickly slice the tomato; peel and slice the onion and then cut off very thin slices of the skin of the courgettes on two sides before slicing into about four or five pieces. Use a pastry brush to coat the vegetables well in the herby oil.

Now heat your griddle and when it’s nice and hot, start cooking the vegetables. I put the onions and peppers on first; then courgettes and finally cooked the tomatoes on their own, knowing they’d make more of a mess and not come away clean from the griddle. As each vegetable is nicely char-browned, carefully lift it on to a serving dish.

I then drizzled over some special olive oil – Eccolo – that I bought at La Dolce Vita show recently and some lovely thick and sweet balsamic vinegar I bought in the Frescobaldi wine bar cum shop at Rome-Fiumicino airport last week.

Now it was time to cook the sea bream. I heated just a smear of olive oil in a pan and seasoned the fish fillet. When the pan was hot I put the fish in skin-side down. The trick to cook the fish well and get a nice crisp skin is to cook it this side first until you start to see the edges of the fish whiten and you know it’s well on its way to being ready. Then, flick it over carefully with a spatula and finish cooking.

Now, transfer to a plate and then help yourself to some of the lovely griddled vegetables. The meal really was full of lovely summery flavours. The fish was sweet and moist and tasted delicious; the vegetables retained just a little bit of bite and had their own intense individual flavours but worked well together. And, a bonus, there were enough vegetables left over for tomorrow which I’ll probably have cold (though not straight from the fridge! – make sure you always serve room temperature), with maybe some creamy buffalo mozzarella.

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

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