Sea bass in salt crust with tomato and anchovy sauce
- 2 x 600g/1lb5oz sea bass
For the salt crust
- 500g/1lb2oz plain flour
- 300g/10½oz table salt
- 150ml/5fl oz egg white
- 100ml/3½fl oz water
- 10g/½oz dried fennel seed
- 1 egg, to glaze the pastry
For the butter sauce
- 2 shallots
- 60g/2oz butter
- 1 sprig thyme (fresh)
- ¼ bay leaf
- 5ml/½ tsp white peppercorns, finely crushed
- 60ml/2fl oz white wine vinegar
- ¼ clove garlic
- 20ml/1fl oz whipping cream
- 1 tsp water
- 210g/7fl oz butter unsalted, chilled and cubed
- salt, lemon juice and pinch of cayenne to taste
- Garnish for the sauce
- 4 anchovy fillets, tinned
- 2 diced tomato
- lemon juice
- salt and pepper
- 4g/1 tsp chopped parsley
To serve with the sea bass
To make the salt crust, Sieve the flour into a food processor mixing bowl and add the salt and fennel.
Attach the dough hook beater and turn the machine on the lowest speed.
Add the egg whites and mix for three minutes. Turn up the speed of the machine a little and slowly add the water. As the paste comes together again, reduce the speed on the machine and continue beating for a further 2 minutes.
On a clean dry surface dusted with a little flour, roll the mixture into a tight ball.
Wrap in cling film and make air tight and set aside to rest for twenty minutes. Do not refrigerate.
Peel and finely slice the shallots.
In a shallow thick bottomed saucepan melt the butter, add the shallots and gently cook for 2 or 3 minutes until they become opaque.
Add the thyme and bay leaf and with a small balloon whisk stir in the peppercorns.
Pour in the white wine vinegar and increase the heat. Bring the mixture to the boil then reduce until the liquid completely evaporates remember not to burn or colour the shallots.
Add the white wine and boil to reduce until it has fully evaporated .
Slice the garlic and add to the pan.
Stir the cream with the whisk and bring to the boil then add the water.
Reduce the heat and as the cream starts to simmer add the cubes of butter piece by piece then whisk until it has fully dissolved.
Season with salt, a pinch of cayenne and a few drops of lemon juice.
Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water and refresh in ice water. Peel the skins and de-seed. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and then dice.
Finely chop the parsley.
Chop the anchovies until they have the consistency of a paste.
Dust a clean dry work surface with flour. Cut the salt crust pastry into four equal pieces then each of these in half again.
With a rolling pin roll out one of the pieces of salt crust to a rectangle 32cm/13in long by 20cm/8in wide and approximately ¾cm/1/8in thick.
Lay down the bass lengthways in the centre of the salt crust.
Roll another piece of pastry out to a similar size.
Dip a small pastry brush in cold water and brush around the edge of the pastry then lay the pastry top over the fish and gently, using the side of your hand, mould and shape the pastry until the contours of the fish are visible. Press down firmly at the edges to ensure the pastry is airtight.
Trim any excess pastry from around the fish but remember to leave a border of at least 1cm to allow for shrinkage during cooking. You could reshape the casing to look like a fish. With the excess pastry, roll out and cut another fin. Brush a little more water just behind the gill and press this onto the pastry. Mould an eye and with a little water stick the eye in place. To give the effect of scales pit the pastry from the tail to head.
Brush the fish with egg wash and put aside.
Repeat this process for the other bass and lay them on a flat baking sheet to cook.
Preheat your oven 220C/425F/Gas 7 and cook for 20 minutes.
To Serve, remove the bass from the oven and brush them with a little melted butter.
Lift them from their trays and place them down on a chopping board or presentation tray. Garnish the board with decorative lemon halves and small bunches of clean watercress.
Add the tomato and parsley garnish to the warm butter sauce.
Pour the finished sauce into a sauceboat and serve immediately.