This recipe for baked seafood is pure comfort. You can prepare it in advance, adding the seafood and popping it in the oven just before serving. Don’t forget the bread to mop up all the juices.
- 2¼ tbsp olive oil
- 2 large fennel bulbs, thinly sliced (400 g net), plus fronds to garnish
- 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
- 2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 150 ml raki or ouzo
- 600 g peeled and chopped roma (plum) tomatoes (fresh or canned)
- 1½ tsp caster sugar
- 1½ tbsp thyme leaves, picked, plus extra to garnish
- 2 strips shaved lemon peel, plus 1½ tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- black pepper
- 2 sea bass or bream fillets, skin on, cut into 4 cm pieces (175 g net)
- 160 g squid, including tentacles, sliced into 1 cm strips
- 200 g large raw prawns, peeled and deveined (or unpeeled, if you prefer)
- 150 g Turkish white cheese or feta, broken into 2 cm chunks
- 60 g unsalted butter
- 1½ tsp Urfa chilli flakes or other chilli flakes
- bread, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Preheat the oven to 220°C.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan on medium heat and sauté the fennel and garlic for about 10 minutes, or until softened. Add the cumin and fennel seeds and cook for another 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste, then add the raki or ouzo. Cook for 2–3 minutes. Mix in the tomato, sugar, half of the thyme, the lemon peel, salt and some black pepper and stir well. Simmer gently for 15–20 minutes, or until the sauce thickens, adding a little extra water if it goes much thicker than a typical pasta sauce. Season to taste. Remove from the heat and discard the lemon peel.
Divide the hot sauce evenly between four individual casserole dishes or small pans. Alternatively, use one large dish. Season the sea bass with salt and pepper and place them in dishes, skin-side down. Top with the squid, followed by the prawns. Press the cheese around the fish so it is slightly submerged in sauce. Finish with remaining thyme leaves.
Place on top rack of oven for 8–12 minutes, depending on the size of your dishes, or until the seafood is just cooked, the sauce bubbles nicely and the cheese turns golden.
Just before the casseroles are done, melt the butter in a small frying pan until it starts to foam. Add the chilli and cook until the butter just begins to brown. Pour in the lemon juice, stir and remove from the heat. Spoon this over the hot casseroles as soon as they come out of the oven. Scatter with the fennel fronds and serve hot with bread on the side.