I met an incredibly talented French-Italian chef in Paris, who introduced me to the freshest most vibrant spring vegetables. He served them with this fish dish - simply encrusted in salt then baked, resulting in a perfectly cooked fish. It's a great cooking technique that captures all the natural flavors of the fish, herbs and salt.
- 6 sprigs lemon thyme
- 12 leaves ail des ours (see Note)
- 2.5-3 kg whole sea bass
- 2 kg sea salt
- 1 egg white
- artichoke hearts
- green onions
- baby carrots
- 1 fennel bulb
- ½ cup peas
- baby cherry tomatoes
- baby leek
- baby turnip
- vinaigre de citron
- sea salt and freshly cracked Szechuan 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.
Standing time 30 minutes
Resting time 10 minutes
Preheat oven to 180°C. Stuff fish cavity with half each of lemon thyme and ail des ours. Mix remaining lemon thyme and ail des ours with sea salt and stand to infuse for 30 minutes.
Fill base of a shallow tray with sea salt mixture, then lay fish on top. Cover fish with remaining salt to make a crust. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Rest for 8-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, to prepare the vegetables, cut green onions into quarters. Peel carrots. Trim fennel. Remove peas from their pods, slice the radish, tomatoes, leek and turnip.
Blanche fennel and baby leek for 3 minutes and remaining vegetables (except radish and tomatoes) for 1 minute. Toss vegetables with vinaigre de citron and season with sea salt and Szechuan pepper.
Using two spoons, gently crack the salt crust along the spine of the fish. Peel off the salt crust, then peel back the skin of the fish. The flesh should be soft and fall apart easily. Spoon fish pieces onto a plate, assembling the flesh in the centre, then decorate with the seasonal vegetables.
• Ail des ours, or bear’s garlic, is a wide, green leaf with a strong aromatic, garlic chive-like flavour.