I’m not really big on superstitions. I mean, sure I always drank Brand’s Essence of Chicken the morning of every university paper much as I hated it and used the same pen throughout my exams each term but beyond that, I don’t really pay much attention to superstitions at all.
Signs from universe and I are, however, on a totally different page altogether. I chance upon a bookstore having a closing down sale? I take it a sign from the universe that I should pick up a couple of cookbooks I have been eyeing. Nigel Slater’s new book was released a day before my birthday? I’m convinced that it was just made to be my birthday present.
So when I was waiting at the seafood counter at a supermarket a couple months ago and was asked by a random stranger if I cooked, I (surprise, surprise!) took it as a sign from the universe that I really should learn to do more with seafood than just eat.
Now, to get how big a deal this was to me, you have to understand that most seafood- whole fish especially- kinda scares me. I just never quite know what fish to buy, what quite to do with it when I get home and how to cook it. But thanks to that guy at the supermarket, I sure as hell was gonna do something about that.
Okay, while we’re still treading down the path of honesty here, I’ll admit that the whole time I was choosing a sea bass and waiting for it to be cleaned up, I was kinda freaking out a little inside about how I was gonna get two neat slices of fish fillets I had envisioned having for lunch from this whole fish (and terribly missing the neat little fillets I used to get at the Queen Victoria market back in Melbourne).
Thankfully, with a little pictorial guidance from Martha Stewart- can I just add that her Cooking School cookbook really does cover everything?- filleting the fish didn’t prove to be quite as difficult as I thought it would be. A little seasoning and wrapping in bacon later, I was well on my way to cook my sea bass fillets for lunch.
I have to say, I really was quite proud of how it all turned out; that I actually bought a whole fish, filleted it and cooked it for lunch. As Jamie Oliver’s recipes tend to go (Nigel Slater and him are my two go-to guys I know will never steer me down the wrong path when it comes to chartering in unfamiliar waters), lunch was really clean-tasting, delicious with the smokiness and crispiness of the bacon pairing off well with the slightly lemony, flaky fish fillets.
Believe me when I say I was practically beaming all throughout lunch so proudly of how this turned out you would have thought I had rear the fish and caught it myself.
I’m so, so thrilled to have finally turned this corner with seafood. The kitchen is now officially my oyster (ha!)!
Roasted Bacon-Wrapped Sea Bass [Adapted from Jamie Oliver's Cook with Jamie]
Note: I omitted the lemon mayonnaise the original recipe calls for to make the dish a little healthier and flavours a little lighter and cleaner- and loved it that way. I really splurged on the smoked bacon (yeah, my faith in Jamie Oliver’s recipes knows no limits apparently) and was duly rewarded with a really delicious fillet of fish that had a slight smokiness to it. And as an added bonus, I now have a freezer full of smoked bacon. It’s official; there’s no way to lose when smoked bacon is involved.
2 200g sea bass fillets, about 2.5cm thick, pin-boned
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
8 rashes of smoked bacon
- Preheat the oven to 200C. Season the fish fillet with rosemary, zest of a lemon and some freshly ground pepper. Lay four rashes of bacon together, slightly overlapping, on the countertop. Place a fish fillet on top of the bacon and wrap the rashes around it. Repeat with the other fillet and the rest of the bacon rashes.
- Heat a large ovenproof frying pan till hot. Add some olive oil and fry the fish fillets for about a minute. Place the pan in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes until the bacon is crisp and the fish fillets are cooked through. Squeeze the lemon juice over the fish fillets and serve immediately with some blanched asparagus and roast potatoes. Serves 2