Fish with fennel – I can’t get enough of it this week for some reason.
You’ve really got to give this a go. The sea bass is meaty enough to stand up to a fairly punchy soy and mirin sauce. The fennel and orange softens in flavour enough not to overpower the rest of the dish. It’s subtle enough to be refreshing but has a nice twang that is most pleasing. The sauce is kind of like a Ponzu sauce but I made use of the stock created from cooking the fennel instead of dashi.
I’ll give the measurements per person for the fish so you can multiply out.
Here’s what you’ll need
- 1 sea bass fillet per person
- 1 bulb of fennel per person – this is florence fennel, you will find it in the supermarket
- 1 orange per person
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar per person
For the sauce (this will make enough for 2 – 3 servings)
- 1 tablespoon mirrin
- Half tablespoon soy sauce
- A squeeze of lime
- A splash of the fennel/orange stock (details below).
Slice the fennel as thin as you can – either with a very sharp knife (careful) or with a mandoline (careful). Squeeze the juice from the orange(s) over the fennel and sprinkle over the sugar. Bake, covered with foil, in a tray, in a hot oven (200c) for 20 minutes.
The sea bass, fennel & orange combination is a classic but some recipes call for the fish to be cooked stright away with the fennel but I don’t think you need to cook the fish that long and the fennel benefits from 30 minutes or so in the oven.
So – after 20 minutes, add the sea bass to the fennel in the tray – spoon over some of the cooking liquid.
Before you put the tray back in the oven, reserve a tablespoon or so of the fennel/orange cooking liquid. This will be used in the sauce.
The fish should cook in about 10 to 15 minutes.
While the fish is cooking, pour the reserved liquid into a pan and add the other sauce ingredients. Over a low heat reduce the sauce – don’t allow it to boil though.
Take the fish out of the oven and allow to rest on a warm plate.
Take the fennel and place in the centre of a warmed dish. Spoon over a little of the cooking liquid and add some of the feathery leaves from the fennel bulb if you have some. Place the fish on top and spoon over a little of the soy/mirrin sauce. Spoon some more of the sauce around the fennel and add some more sprigs of fennel leaf.
Sea bass is brilliant if you’re cooking for people who don’t eat that much fish – it’s surprisingly meaty. It’s also strong enough in texture and flavour to stand up to stronger flavours.
This dish is reasonably flexible in terms of cooking for numbers – you could easily cook this on a larger scale in a large pan with loads of fennel, covered with sea bass – all served on a large serving plate with the sauce drizzled over.
This is a really pleasing dish to cook.