The slight aniseed flavour of fennel works wonderfully with most types of seafood. This particular dish pairs the gentle sweetness of snapper flesh with a subtle creamy puree, and an extra hit of fennel flavour with the more rustic sharpness of the seeds. A dob of fennel butter completes the dish.
- 2 medium bulbs of fennel, cut into wedges
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 20 g butter
- 4 cloves of garlic, roughly crushed
- 2 tsp thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 x 280 g pieces of snapper fillet, skin on
- 80 g fennel butter, at room temperature
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.
In a pot of boiling salted water, blanch your fennel wedges for 2 minutes. Remove from the water and give them a few moments to drain in a colander.
In a large pan over medium heat, add a splash of olive oil, some butter and the garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Add your fennel to the mix and give it all a good toss. You want all the flavours to combine and you also want to dry out the fennel a little.
Once it’s all sizzling and starting to colour, transfer this mix to a baking tray, cover with foil and place in a pre-heated oven at 180°C. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the fennel is soft enough, so a skewer goes through easily.
Place everything in a blender except the bay leaf, blitz until smooth and adjust seasoning if necessary. Keep the puree in a warm spot while you cook the fish.
Place a pan, large enough to fit both the fillets, over high heat. Lightly score fish skin and season your fish. Wait until the pan gets hot, add a splash of oil and then gently place the fish fillets into the pan, skin-side down.
Leave on high heat for a few minutes or until the skin starts to crisp, then turn down the heat and continue cooking for a further 2 minutes or so. Gently flip the fish fillets and cook for a further 1 minute, before removing the pan from the heat and giving it another minute or so to continue cooking from the heat of the pan. As with all things, the exact times will vary depending on many conditions, so let yourself be guided by common sense.
To serve, place the still-warm puree on a platter, place the fish, skin-side up, over the top and finish with the butter.
• This recipe will also work with most other white-fleshed fish fillet you’d care to use, and would also be delicious with some pork or beef. (Oh, the diversity of fennel.)
Photographs by Benito Martin. Styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Suresh Watson.
Dinner plate in slate from Mud. Robert Welch mulberry fork and knife from Tomkin.