I actually have never cooked a whole fish before. Something about the whole process always seems daunting and asking my fish monger to fillet the fish is usually my go-to choice. Sometimes that gets boring. I find myself making the same dishes week in and week out just because I know it will taste good and it’s well…easy. With the encouragement of my husband to try something new, we went to one of my favorite boutique gourmet grocers here in Dubai: Market & Platters. They have a wonderful array of fine cheeses, beautiful seasonal produce and the freshest fish (including wonderful oysters & sushi) in town. Seeing all that beautiful fish through the glass counter finally inspired me to get into the kitchen and make something new. After we downed about four oysters each at the counter, we decided on a lovely whole sea bream originating from Greece. I always judge good seafood and fish on brininess; when the scent reminds me of putting my head under water in the refreshing salty sea, I know it’s fresh. The wonderful fish monger did the cleaning and butterflying which helped make the whole process much easier.
I love the idea of stuffing a fish with herbs, lemon and spices to infuse the flavors. The look is just so rustic and Mediterranean. I used fennel, dill, garlic & lemon slices alongside glugs of olive oil. Maldon sea salt and freshly cracked pepper were the perfect seasonings. So simple, so good. The dill infused wonderfully while the fennel is always an excellent accompaniment with fish.
I paired the fish with violet potato pureed with creme fraiche and goat cheese, indulgent and so creamy. I also roasted the most stunning heirloom carrots ever with garlic and thyme. I love interesting produce and these colors added such earthiness to my table.
The fish was done in less than twenty minutes and the texture was flakey and reminiscent of the sea. Now that my fear has been conquered I see myself making this again and again, especially for a gathering.
What’s the next fear I want to conquer in the kitchen? Duck confit. Gimme a few more weeks
Fish (serves 2 generously):
1 whole fish of your choice cleaned & butterflied (sea bass or sea bream work great, our fish weighed 850 grams)
2 tsp Maldon sea salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 fennel bulb sliced thinly
1 lemon sliced
3 cloves of garlic sliced
handful of dill
Preheat the oven to 400F/205C. Place the fish on a parchment lined baking tray. Season generously inside & outside (both sides) with salt and pepper. Stuff the inside of the fish with the dill, fennel, garlic, and lemon till completely full. Drizzle the inside & outside generously with olive oil.
Cook in the oven for about 20 minutes.
Roasted Carrots (serves 2):
6 carrots of your choice
3 cloves of garlic (unpeeled)
6 cloves of thyme
salt & pepper to season
1 tbs red wine vinegar
olive oil to drizzle
In a preheated oven (400F/205C) roast the carrots for about 35-40 minutes until they are soft and caramelized.
Violet Potato Puree (serves 2 generously):
7 violet potatoes peeled & cut into small cubes
3 tbs butter
3 tbs soft goat cheese
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 garlic clove
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the potatoes. Cook until fork soft for about 7-10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a food processor and add the garlic, butter, goat cheese, & creme fraiche. Process until just smooth (don’t over mix). Season with salt & pepper to your liking. Garnish with snipped chives.