Some varieties of fish are excellent cooked by poaching in olive oil, it’s such a gentle and delicate method and the fish stays extra succulent. With this particular recipe you first make a black olive oil using kalamata olives – you end up with an excellent coloured oil that has the rick flavour of kalamata's without any overpowering saltiness. This coupled with the sweet juicy and slightly acidic flavour of the tomatoes and the earthiness of the fish gives you a simple yet startling looking dish where each individual flavour shines.
- 1½ cups pitted kalamata olives, cut lengthways down the middle
- 750 ml cooking olive oil, nothing with too strong a flavour
- 300 g cherry tomatoes
- 1 tsp thyme
- 500 g piece of mulloway fillet (skin off)
- white and black pepper
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.
Drying time 3 hours
Lay the olives onto a tray covered with baking paper and leave them to dry out in an oven at 100°C for about 3 hours. You want them to become dry and crumbly.
Transfer the olives and the olive oil to a blender and buzz until very smooth. You should end up with a black, slightly thick oil. This stage can be done in advance as it will keep in your fridge for at least a few weeks.
In a large mixing bowl, toss the tomatoes with the thyme, a nice splash of live oil, a good amount of black pepper and a little salt.
Lay them out on a baking tray and roast at 150ºC for about 10 minutes. You want to cook until the tomatoes are starting to soften but not completely falling apart. Cover with foil and set aside in a warm spot.
Pour the oil into a slim baking dish or fry pan, hopefully you will have something that the fish fillet will be able to fit quite snugly in. You may have to be a little versatile here, cut the fillet in half if you need to. Place your chosen vessel over a burner and slowly bring it to 150ºC, stirring often so the olive particles don’t catch on the bottom.
At this stage season your fish, which has been sitting around waiting and is now at a nice room temperature, with a nice amount of white pepper. Gently slip the fillet into the oil, give it a little jiggle so it doesn’t stick to the bottom and then cover your pan with foil.
Place it into an oven at 80°C for about 8-10 minutes.
At this stage take it out of the oven, remove the foil and inspect. You want the fish to be soft to the touch with a tiny amount of resistance. It should just be starting to fall apart. The timing of this will be very dependent on the thickness and type of your fish fillet. If you think it’s almost done you can also just re-cover with foil and let it sit in a warm spot for a little.
To serve, gently lift out the fillet and place it on a large warmed platter and spoon over some of the poaching oil. Make sure your tomatoes are still warm enough before spooning them over the top to complete the dish.
• As I’ve said before, please be guided by the fish that’s available rather than being too specific. This dish also works with other white fish, preferably something with finer flakes and earthier flavours. The black olive oil is a versatile little number and can be used in any number of ways; with a little lemon juice added, it becomes an excellent dressing and is also delicious spooned over chargrilled meat. The possibilities are endless.
Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Suresh Watson. Wonky Ware soup bowl in colour black (kalamata oil) and Black handled servers both from White Home.