I used to cook this dish so often that I was surprised, when I thought of making it tonight, to discover that it wasn’t already on the blog. There are so many recipes here now that sometimes I think, I’ll make ‘whatever’ and write it up, only to discover I did that two or three years ago! So, how did this escape? My once favourite dinner party recipe (unless of course you have those guests who don’t like fish – how can there be so many of them: I love fish!). I haven’t, as it happens, made it for sometime. It’s so simple a recipe that even I had forgotten quite how marvellous it is. I love those recipes that seem incredibly simple and even when you’re eating the finished dish you can’t quite understand how something so simple can taste so good.
I’ve had quite a busy day and have been out of the house a lot. When I came home mid-afternoon I decided to defrost the sea bream fillet I had in my freezer, left over from the Sea Bream with Orange, Capers & Pine Nuts I made recently. I was originally planning to simply pan fry it and serve it with my favourite Fennel, Pear & Radish Salad. Whenever I go to Barrafina in London – now a favourite place for an early evening meal, especially if eating alone, sat at the bar with the great view across the open kitchen – I just can’t resist this salad. Even though my ‘copy’ is good, I never seem to get it quite as good as theirs!
Somewhere along the supper planning route, I changed tack and decided to cook the sea bream using the ‘old’ recipe. It comes from one of my all-time favourite cookery books: Fish by Sophie Grigson & William Black (first published 1998). Apart from containing lots of wonderful fish recipes, at the beginning of the sections on different varieties of fish there are lovely line drawings of each fish followed by lots of information about them. It also includes the fish’s name in other languages, hence, I can easily see that Gilt-Head Sea Bream (the type I bought) is Dorade Royale in French, Orata in Italian, Dorada in Spanish and Meerbrassen in German. Sophie describes this particular variety (and there are many kinds of sea bream) as ‘the finest of all sea breams … an exquisite fish’. It’s certainly one of my favourite fish. Sophie actually uses cod in the recipe but I think it also works brilliantly with the sea bream or sea bass.
One of the reasons it’s a great recipe for entertaining is that the preparation can be done a bit in advance, the fish covered and put in the fridge until needed, then popped into a hot oven for just 20 minutes near eating time. That was also a good plan for this evening as I was expecting a call from my lovely friend Linda who lives in Spain around 6.00pm. I prepared the fish a bit before so it was all ready to go into the oven after we’d talked.
Ingredients for 1 serving:
- 1 sea bream fillet
- 25g breadcrumbs (from fresh or slightly stale bread)
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- finely grated zest of ½ lemon
- 15g butter, melted
- lemon juice
- salt & pepper
I’ve found a good way to make fresh breadcrumbs is to cut a slice of bread, take off the crusts, tear pieces into a tall, smallish container, and then use my hand blender, moving it up and down a bit as it ‘blends’. Put the breadcrumbs into a small dish then add the chopped parsley, crushed garlic, lemon zest, melted butter, squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper. Mix together. Put the sea bream fillet, skin side down, in an ovenproof dish. Lay the breadcrumb mixture across the top, patting it down so it holds together. Put into a 220C/200 Fan/Gas 7 preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Yes, it really is that easy! While it was roasting, I made my salad and boiled some little new potatoes, which I tossed in butter and chopped fresh mint.
For mid week it turned out to be rather a splendid supper!
I really had forgotten quite how good it is. The flavours of the topping infuse the fish with all that gorgeous garlicky-lemon-parsley flavour; the crunchiness of the topping contrasts beautifully with the soft tenderness of the fish. And the fish itself, apart from tasting so wonderful, retains its moistness, protected during the cooking by that lovely topping. It’s incredibly simple – and incredibly good!