Raymond Blanc's sensational seafood recipe proves that fish and fennel is a classic combination. Sanary sur Mer is a French fishing port, but of course you can use any good-quality firm-fleshed local fish.
For the fennel flames
- 900 g fennel flames (about 4), cut through root
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 thyme sprig
- ½ piece orange zest
- 2 cardamom pods
- pinch of fennel seeds
- 6 g salt
- pinch of pepper
- 1 litre water
- 2 tbsp olive oil
For the purée
- 10 g refined olive oil
- 400 g fennel, trimmed, green parts removed, cut into 2 cm dice
- 4 g salt
- 400 ml reserved fennel flames cooking liquid
- 5 ml lemon juice
- 50 ml olive oil
For the red wine sauce
- 30 g unsalted butter
- 120 g reserved fish bones, chopped into 3 cm pieces
- 2 small French shallots, finely sliced
- 100 g mushrooms, finely sliced
- 250 ml red wine, boiled, reduced by half
- 350 ml brown chicken stock, boiled, reduced by half
- ¼ star anise
- ½ g liquorice root, chopped
- ½ garlic clove
- 1 tsp arrowroot, dissolved in 1 tbsp water
For the chickpeas
- 100 g dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (200 g soaked weight)
- 2 g cumin seeds, toasted, powdered
- 4 pinches salt
- 5 g strip lemon peel
- 50 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 400 ml cold water
- 40 g tomatoes, seeded, cut into 1cm dice
- 80 g broad beans, blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes, refreshed in iced water, peeled
- fresh almonds, shelled
For the sea bream
- olive oil, for cooking
- 4 sea bream fillets (480 g total), pin-boned, scaled, skin scored
- 4 pinches sea salt
- 2 pinches freshly ground black pepper
- ½ lemon, juiced
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.
To make fennel flames, place all ingredients, except olive oil, in a 22 cm saucepan on high heat. Bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover surface with a circle of greaseproof paper. Cook for 50 minutes, until fennel is tender. Cool in cooking liquid, then use a slotted spoon to transfer fennel to a perforated tray. Pat dry. Reserve cooking liquid.
Heat olive oil in a large frying pan on high. Cook fennel flames for 2–3 minutes on one side, until golden. Season and cool in pan until needed.
To make fennel purée, heat refined olive oil in a 22 cm sauté pan on medium. Add fennel and salt, cover with a lid and cook for 5 minutes. Add reserved cooking liquid and gently simmer for 30–40 minutes, until tender. Strain fennel, reserving cooking liquid. Transfer fennel to a blender and add lemon juice and olive oil. Blend until smooth, then season to taste. Set aside.
To make red wine sauce, heat butter in a large non-stick frying pan on medium. Cook fish bones for 2 minutes, until lightly golden. Add shallot and mushroom and cook for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, bring to boil, reduce heat to low and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Skim surface. Stir in diluted arrowroot and simmer for a further 1 minute, until thickened. Season to taste. Strain through a fine sieve and set aside.
To cook chickpeas, place all ingredients, except tomato, broad beans and almonds, in a small saucepan on high heat. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, only one bubble breaking surface each minute, for 1½ hours. Drain in a colander. Add remaining ingredients and return to low heat for 1 minute, to warm through. Season to taste. Cover to keep warm.
To cook sea bream, season with salt and pepper on flesh side only. Heat olive oil in a 26 cm frying pan on high. Cook fish, skin sides down, for 20 seconds. Reduce heat to medium and cook for a further 7–8 minutes, until skin is golden and crisp. Turn over fish and remove from heat. Add lemon juice to pan, and spoon over fish. Transfer to a warm plate.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Reheat fennel flames for 4 minutes. Reheat garnishes and sauce in saucepans on low heat. Spoon 2 tbsp purée in centres of serving plates and top with fennel flames. Top with sea bream, then spoon over chickpeas. Drizzle with red wine sauce.