I braved the long Saturday queue at Sandy’s fishmongers in Twickenham today on my way back from coffee in Richmond. I fancied fish for supper. Outside the world seemed slightly mad. It was a big rugby match day; part of the fun and sometimes irritation of living in Twickenham. The rugby crowds (75,000 today) are generally a good natured lot but the roads become gridlocked and if I move my car from outside my house I may not be able to park it when I come back. It was obviously a special rugby day: these weren’t ‘ordinary’ supporters of England, Scotland, New Zealand or some other nation declaring their loyalty by the colours of their scarves or waving flags. No, people in fancy dress were filling the town wearing strange outfits; a number were dressed as green monsters, their faces and arms coloured bright green and plastic bolts stuck on their necks or heads. And this was before they’d drunk too much …
In Sandy’s all was more civilised. As I watched the people before me choose their fish, ask for it to perhaps be cleaned or filleted, I realised that in the main they all knew their fish well and what to do with it. There were gorgeous sparkling sea bream, sea bass, salmon; huge fresh, raw king prawns; baby squid and large squid; baby octopus; lobsters and crabs, some dressed and ready to eat. On the counter, a large platter of bright green samphire; a dish of smoked garlic; packets of fresh herbs. Perhaps I should have been more adventurous but I settled on a lovely sea bream – which I often buy as it’s one of my favourite fishes – and asked them to fillet it. One fillet I planned to cook tonight and the other would immediately go into the freezer for another day.
Come suppertime I decided to cook it Greek style … or the way I’d cooked it with Tonia Buxton at the Greek Masterclass recently. It really jazzes up the fish well but is incredibly simple and quick. I had everything I needed, except fresh coriander and so I just picked some parsley from a pot in the garden and a little rocket I had growing to add a bit of pepperiness. (My home-grown rocket is pretty potent!) I chopped half a small red onion finely and also a small clove of garlic. I roughly chopped 4-5 large green olives. I got out pine nuts and capers from the fridge. (Keep pine nuts in a jar with a tight-fitting lid in the fridge to stop them going rancid too quickly.) Then I heated a little olive oil in a frying pan; just a little as you don’t want the fish to swim in oil! When it was hot, I added the sea bream fillet skin-side down and let it cook until the flesh at the edges started to whiten and was cooked. Don’t keep flipping the fish; wait until you’re certain it’s almost cooked and just the middle remains uncooked. Then turn it over. The skin will be nicely crisped up.
After this, the fish only needs a minute or two to be cooked through. Remove it to a warm plate. Now add the onion, garlic, olives, a heaped teaspoon pine nuts and a few capers to the pan. You may need a little more oil.
Stir around for just 4-5 minutes so that it all starts to cook and mix together. When it looks nicely browning – but not burnt! – squeeze in a little lemon juice and put in the chopped fresh herbs (coriander if you have it or parsley).
You might want to add some freshly ground black pepper but it may not need salt because of the capers and olives, but taste a little and check. Now spoon it over your fish. I served it with some new potatoes and some broccoli on the side, dressed with some extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.
I kept the Greek theme with an easy dessert. I stopped by at Liquid Gold Cave this afternoon to buy some of their gorgeous thyme and pine honey from Crete.
It’s a lovely raw and unprocessed honey with a deep golden colour and fantastic flavour that comes from Prina in eastern Crete where pine trees and vast areas of wild thyme grow. I simply spooned it over some Total Greek yoghurt with some fresh strawberries and mango.
Perfection! Good ingredients stand on their own. Outside a strong wind was blowing and heavy rain was battering against my windows; inside my Greek-style meal brought a little sunshine to the day.