“While this isn’t the traditional salt-baked fish cracked open at the table for a touch of theatre, it comes pretty close. Breaking through the salt-crusted puff pastry, all the aromas from the spanking fresh seafood and sherry cream waft up and take you straight to Andalucía, and that’s what it’s all about. I was lucky enough to find beautiful bulbs of baby fennel that were small enough to go into the ramekins whole. If you can only find larger baby fennel, then just use one bulb cut into quarters for the ramekins and cut up some of the fronds for the sherry cream.” Shane Delia, Shane Delia’s Moorish Spice Journey
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 50 g butter
- 5 very small bulbs of baby fennel (see note)
- 2 small red onions, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- a few thyme sprigs
- sea salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
- 250 ml (1 cup) dry sherry
- 500 ml (2 cups) thickened cream
- 1 kg mixed seafood, including cooked clams and mussels, and uncooked oysters, scallops and pieces of John Dory fillet
- 4 small waxy potatoes, peeled and steamed until tender
- ½ smoked eel, skin and bones removed, meat flaked
- 100 g shaved jamón
- ⅓ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
- smoked paprika, for sprinkling
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.
Place the oil and butter in large, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Thinly slice one of the fennel bulbs, then add to the pan with the onion and garlic and cook for 5-6 minutes or until soft but not coloured. Add the bay leaves and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Add the sherry and simmer for 2-3 minutes or until reduced. Add the cream and cook for 6-8 minutes or until thickened and reduced. Check the seasoning, then remove from the heat, then strain through fine sieve extracting as much flavour as possible from the solids. Discard the solids and reserve the cream.
Divide the seafood between 4 ovenproof ramekins. Add the potatoes, remaining fennel, eel, jamon and parsley. Pour over enough sauce to cover well but don’t fill up the ramekins too much because the gap between the pastry lid and the seafood allows it to cook quickly.
Cut out rounds of the pastry wide enough to cover the ramekins with the edges overhanging. Place the pastry on top of the ramekins, press down the sides and brush all over with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with salt and paprika and bake for 5-10 minutes or until the pastry is golden and crisp. Reduce the heat to 200°C and bake for another 3-5 minutes to ensure the fish pieces are cooked through. Serve immediately.