Sunday, March 25, 2007

Salt-crust Sea Bass x 2

One thing’s for sure – The Experiment is already on its last legs. And it’s only day 5. I’ve still just got enough to make a decent lunch but we really need bananas and yogurts so I think it’s time to start ‘capsule’ shopping for fresh things only. The £460 a year every adult in the UK spends on wasted food is being blamed partly on buy-one-get-one-free offers in the supermarket that never get eaten and things passing their sell-by-dates unnoticed until it’s too late. I may switch my tactic to frequent shopping and only in local shops, I’m including Somerfield Market Fresh here or should that not be allowed? And I'm going to really grow my own this year - perhaps I could convert our tiny patch of grass into a curly parsley lawn...

Anyway, I found a measly couple of rosemary sprigs, half a box of eggs and a punnet of still-yellow new potatoes in the little fridge so have decided to try and make a classic, 70’s style, salt-crust for our sea bass. We can have it with butter, new potatoes and some peas from the 12, all-opened bags still in the freezer. Ice cream and chocolate sauce for pudding!

Method One
This method of making a salt-crust struck me as actually being quite wasteful as the flour, eggs and salt all end up in the bin. Quite enjoyable to make though, steams the fish brilliantly within the crust (though tastes more salty than you might expect) and has a great retro look about it.

1 large sea bass, trimmed and cleaned
slices of lemon, parsley or whatever you have
250g plain flour
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried oregano
150g table salt
3 eggs, separated
4 tbsp cold water

Season the cavity and pop in a few aromatics like sliced lemon or lime, soft herbs, or a few slivers of garlic or chilli.

Place the flour, rosemary, salt and egg whites in a bowl and beat together. Add the water and bring together to make a firm dough. Cover and leave to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/ Gas 6. Halve the salt crust and roll out into two rectangles big enough to enclose the fish. Place the fish on a rectangle then brush round it with a little water. Place the second piece of pastry on top, and press round to seal, try not to get any air trapped and press the pastry so it takes on the shape of the fish. Trim round but it will shrink so leave a good centimetre or two of border.

Mix together an egg yolk or two with a little water and brush over the crust. Scatter with a bit of coarse sea salt and bake for 20 minutes. Break open the crust to serve the fish within.

Method Two
I did find rolling out the dough a bit tough as it's quite firm and not at all elastic and I thought about trying the other salt-crust method. I found 5 new boxes of Maldon Sea Salt in the pantry but only had one egg left. So, I separated the egg and stirred in as much salt as it could take which was 200g - I think the ideal balance would be two egg whites and 300g salt just to make the mixture a bit more moist and easier to mold around the fish. Anyway, I added a few fennel seeds and packed it round the second fish and baked it same temperature, same time - 20 minutes. It set rock hard and I had to crack off the crust. I think it tasted nicer, less salty and slightly moister than the first fish. Could have just been a better fish of course, but anyway, a lot easier and a tiny little bit less wasteful...


myriam said...

luv, can i send you something over to london so you dont starve? i got fresh thyme, rosemary, lemons, parmesan,...;-) should try this, too, since i spent so much money when in the UK. and there is always so much food around here i should eat instead of going out for dinner.

Silvana said...

No thank you Myriam. I am trying hard to get through the food already in the house, we don't need more. I am ashamed of how much food I waste every day with my job and at home so I am trying to buy less and actually eat everything that we already have. And yes, you should do something brilliant with your herbs and lemons and not go out to dinner!

myriam said...

ok, mama. i will have all my herbs and lemons and not go out for dinner. food waste on shoots was something that shocked me, when i was with you lovely people at fork (do you remeber how i even took egg whites back home with me?).... growing up as a catholic it is an absolute NO-NO! good luck with your project and whats for dinner tonight?

Silvana said...

Lasagne from freezer, home made last November with a salad from an actual lettuce not a bag. I shall check your blog to see what you made for your tea, too.

myriam said...

no tea tonight. i ate a chocolate bunny...