Sea bass recipes
Ψ Archestratus, the world’s first known food writer, urged his readers (in around 350BC) not to cover up the fine flavour of sea bass. “Let no Syracusian and no Greek of Italy come near you when you make this dish; they do not know how to prepare good fish, but wickedly spoil it by cheesing everything and dousing it with watery vinegar and silphium (a pickled spice)“. The Ancient Romans certainly were capable of various food atrocities. As a result, some sort of appalling racial memory persists even now in parts of Italy, that fish and cheese on the same plate are an abomination. Which may be taking things a little far, and yet that damning phrase “cheesing everything” still has the power to chill the blood.
Ψ Why is white (coldwater) fish such healthy eating? If such fish contained many saturated fats, they would congeal in cold waters and kill the fish. So they store most of their fat as polyunsaturates, which stay liquid at low temperatures. As a result, sea bass is low in saturated fats, but rich in protein and other nutrients. Top nutritional choice.
Ψ NB Do not be fooled by ‘Chilean sea bass’ — aka Patagonian toothfish.
Sea bass stocks have been overfished; and the situation has been unusually exacerbated by recreational fishing. Summer 2014 saw calls for catches to be cut by 80%; in January 2015, the European Commission announced emergency measures to prevent stocks collapsing. Do avoid buying sea bass caught at sea; especially since — on the up side — in March 2015 the Marine Conservation Society listed British farmed sea bass as a good sustainable choice. Go for the farmed version, therefore; and for a quick and easy check of sea bass and all other fish stocks, click on FishOnline.org
Regarding cooking, sea bass is uncommonly robust. It can handle tomato, bacon, garlic, capers, lemon and orange, rosemary and thyme — singly or together. Roast, grill, barbecue, steam or poach. Top with green olives and herbs, or tomato sauce or salsa, even black olives — bass can take it. Crisp the skin with quick hot frying. NB the hotter the fat when you drop the fish in, the crispier the skin will be.
Sea bass & pesto
For a real quick cheat, just spread the fish with pesto (any kind) and drizzle with olive oil before frying.
Try baking a whole sea bass en papillote (wrapped in greaseproof paper, or placed in a paper bag) stuffed with with slices of citrus fruits, herbs and olive oil. The paper wrapping keeps the fish beautiful and moist. 15 minutes at Gas 4 or 180C ought to do it (recipes vary from 10 to 25 minutes, so that’s just a median guess – just make sure the flesh is opaque, white and flaky).
Thai or other Asian flavours work beautifully with sea bass. Marinade and/or fry gently with lemongrass, garlic, ginger, ground coriander, chilli and a very little fish sauce. Add black pepper to taste and sprinkle with lime juice at the end. Don’t forget the lime juice. Serve with a zingy cucumber salad, coleslaw, radishes, a big jumble of shredded spring onions, fresh coriander and similar fresh flavours.
For a quick fix, fry the fish in sesame oil, chopped spring onions and serve sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds and soy sauce. Serve with noodles and sweetcorn.
Alternatively, for extra-quick cooking, order one of the new generation of artisan/gourmet curry kits coming online now. The Taster tried a fennel-y fish curry paste from Dhaniya — sea bass is perfect for this sort of prep — it was delicious. We literally just fried three fillets gently with a large spoonful of paste, and served them up with green peas and rice that had also had a little paste mixed in. Both fish and rice came out beautifully golden and with a very pleasant flavour; the whole meal was cooked in 15 minutes.
The Taster hopes this page has given you a few ideas; we do add stuff as we go on, so pop back any time. Happy eating!