grilled SEA BASS, herb risotto, roast tomatoes & pesto
During the cold, dark and damp days of November, I often start thinking of food that makes me remember the warmer days of summer.
While warming casseroles and pies have their place at this time of year - and quite a big place for me - sometimes it is nice to make something lighter and summery with the ingredients of the current season.
This recipe is it.
Delicate, soft Sea Bass fillets with a crispy skin, over a herby risotto, garnished with sweet roast tomatoes and a vibrant green pesto.
Imagine eating this on the deck of your yacht, moored off St Tropez, floating on azure water under a Mediterranean blue sky.
Okay, I know that may be a stretch of the imagination, but trust me, eat this dish and you are there!
And all the ingredients are in the shops now.
Sea Bass is available farmed fresh and frozen all year round, and for the life of me, I cannot tell the difference between frozen and fresh when cooked this way.
Defrosted, dried with a piece of kitchen towel, brushed with a little oil or butter, seasoned, and put skin side up under a hot grill for 3-4 minutes, until the skin starts to crisp and blister.
No need to turn, the fillets will be cooked through and moist done like this.
A lovely classic risotto flavoured with fresh tarragon, parsley and some chives, and enriched with a tablespoon of half-fat creme fraiche and grated parmesan.
Sweet cherry tomatoes roasted in the oven with only a little olive oil and seasoning, and the final touch, blobs of homemade pesto made with fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan and salt.
Everything is easy to obtain, although when I’m pushed for time I just use a jar of good Genovese pesto.
It’s amazing how something so quick and simple can taste so fantastic.
INGREDIENTS serves 4
4 Sea Bass fillets
For the Risotto
50g unsalted butter
½ large onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
Large glass of white wine
300g risotto rice (Arborio or Canaroli)
1 ltr of chicken stock
50g grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp half-fat creme fraiche
1 tbsp each of freshly chopped tarragon, parsley and chives
Approx 300g cherry tomatoes, preferably on the vine
Salt & pepper
For the Pesto
150ml good olive oil
50g fresh basil leaves
50g of pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
4 tbsp parmesan, grated
Salt, a pinch
Firstly, roast the tomatoes.
Drizzle them with some olive oil to coat, season with sea salt, and roast in a 200℃/180℃ fan oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the skins start to burst and become a little charred. Keep warm.
Meanwhile, make the pesto if you fancy - if you don’t, take the lid off a jar!
If you want to make your own, just whizz all the pesto ingredients apart from the olive oil in a small blender until smooth. Then slowly add the olive oil while whizzing to emulsify everything together. Pesto done.
Not quite as quick as removing a lid from a jar, but not far behind.
For the risotto, melt the butter in a good sized frying or saute pan, and gently cook the onion and garlic for a few minutes until soft.
Add the rice and stir to make sure all the grains are coated with the butter, then pour in the glass of wine and stir well.
The rice will quickly absorb the wine, becoming creamy looking, and when you think most of the wine is gone, add hot stock a ladleful at a time, stirring well between each addition. Try not to add more stock until most of the previous ladleful has gone. Keep stirring to prevent sticking.
When about ¾ of the stock has been used and the rice is creamy and thick (about 20 minutes), take a grain in your fingers and bite through it. If the centre of the grain is still chalky and hard, add a bit more stock and cook for another 5 minutes.
Heat the the grill for the Sea Bass fillets.
When a grain of rice is firm but not chalky, it is almost done.
Now is the time to add your freshly chopped herbs, creme fraiche and grated parmesan. Stir through the rice until combined, Remove from the heat, put a lid on and leave for a few minutes.
Brush the Sea bass fillets with oil and season.
Place under the hot grill, skin side up for 3 - 4 minutes, until the skin has blistered and looks crispy. There is no need to turn the fillets as the heat will penetrate all the way through, and give you lovely moist flesh.
To serve, place a large spoonful of risotto (if it has stiffened up, just loosen with a little stock) in the centre of a plate and surround with some roasted tomatoes. Dot dollops of pesto around the rice and gently drape a Sea Bass filet over the risotto. Garnish with a few basil leaves.
Eat while hot and stare out over the Mediterranean ocean, or wherever your imagination takes you.