This recipe has been devised in response to Hugh’s “Three Good Things“ challenge. I am, of course, endeavouring to add beer as a sneaky fourth “good thing”. I’m adding it as a subtle addition — much the way the chefs in the TV episodes will gladly include brilliant oils, vinegars, stocks, and herbs without giving them a headline credit.
Almost didn’t get one in this week. Busy busy, and Saturday consumed by a very–unfishy venison–oriented day entertaining guests. However, one of the great things about fish is you can knock up something exquisite super-fast. So here’s my quick Sunday dinner…
I’ve picked my other two ingredients on both colour and flavour. With the deep green of the cavolo nero and the bright yellow and red of the peppers this creates a striking plate of food. The light flavour, seaweedy texture, and slight bitterness of the cavolo nero are near-opposite to the rich sweetness of roasted peppers (of which a little really does go a long way). The sweet/bitter combination compliments the lightly-oily creamy texure of sea–bass, which I have taken up another notch by adding a bit of smoke to it in the BBQ. To offset all this I’ve added a light zesty beer in the form of a German-style Weizen… in my quest to stick to British beer though I have picked one from Manchester’s Marble Brewery. This weizen has quite a light rendition of the typical coriander/orange/banana notes and a slight tartness akin to a twist of lemon juice.
- 2 Sea Bass
- 300g cavolo nero
- 1 red & 1 yellow pepper – or pre–roasted equivalent
- This is one thing I just can’t get used to, back home we call it a “capsicum”… and even after 6 years “pepper” continues to feel confusing and wrong. I’m fine with “aubergine” though (as opposed to “eggplant”).
- 2 tbsp butter
- 4 cloves of garlic
- handful of fennel fronds
- 4 bay leaves
- salt & pepper
- A German-style wheat beer, aka weizen
- I’ve used the Weizen from Marble — a brewery in Manchester
- Something more sour could be even better, such as a lambic or geuze, but it is very difficult to get your hands on a British one. This style is only just starting to get some attention amongst UK brewers.
You can buy roast pepper, but I usually do my own on the BBQ. Simply place whole peppers over the flame, rotating now and then until part-blackened on all sides. Put aside in a dish covered with foil. When cooled you can simply rub the charred skin off and slice into strips.
Pre-blanch the cavolo nero. I’ve stripped it off the stems, simmered it for 4 minutes, let cool in a colander, then squeezed much of the water out by hand. You will have a hand–compressed lump of cavolo nero now, simply cut this into about 5mm slices and set aside for “the last minute”.
I’ve prepared a herbed–butter by grinding up 2 cloves of garlic, a few twists of pepper, and a couple of fronds of fennel in a pestle and mortar. When pasted I’ve added a couple of tablespoons of soft butter and thoroughly mixed the lot together.
The sea bass should be scaled and gutted but otherwise whole. I prefer the look of a whole fish, it seems a bit sad to serve up the poor creature beheaded. The head also contains some tasty morsels of flesh — sea bass chaps anyone? Make some cuts in the sides of your fish, then rub the fish down with a generous grinding of salt. Next rub the herbed butter all over the fish and into the cuts, pop a knob of butter inside the fish as well, reserve about a quarter of the butter for later. Also into the belly cavity stuff some more fronds of fennel, a crushed garlic clove, and a couple of bay leaves.
You now have several options open to you for cooking your fish. Simply pan-fried? Baked in a hot oven for 15 minutes? Or for the hurried: wrapped in foil on a bed of cavolo nero, roast pepper on top, add a splash of weizen then into a hot oven for 25 minutes — slide onto a plate and enjoy.
I’ve taken the plain baking approach, sort–of. My BBQ gets very hot inside with the lid down, near to 300C at peak. So I’ve heated the BBQ up full–bull and onto a hotplate spread some pre–soaked smoking chips. Lid down again and await the moment they begin to produce some smoke, then pop the sea bass right on top of the chips. Lid down again, wait 15 minutes, remove, brush off any woodchips stuck to the skin. Done!
(Yes, I am quite happy to do a bit of BBQing outside while everything is covered in frost. I’ve BBQed in the snow too!)
Now it is “the last minute”. Place the cavolo nero in a small pan and add about a quarter of a cup of weizen and toss this while heating just to the point that it simmers … now melt in the retained herbed butter and turn off the heat.
Onto a warmed plate place a bed of cavolo nero, onto this place a sea bass, drape with strips of roast pepper, drizzle with the buttery–weizen from the cavolo nero pan. Serve!
Dinner time, with a nice cool glass of weizen! We enjoyed our sea bass dinner with a side of leftover cous–cous salad and a home–baked bap.