Saturday 8 December 2012

Sea Bream with Star Anise

Delicious, easy, quick, and practical (in that, the whole dish can be prepared in advance and then put to one side, ready to go into the oven half an hour before you plan to serve). This is a slight re-working of a Robuchon recipe, where once again, tomato is combined with red pepper, to the benefit of both ingredients - Technical Dept has a bit of a down on both, on the basis that he finds both tomato and capsicum rather 'one-note-ish', and that individually their flavours tend to dominate any dish of which they are part; combined in this way, though, the end result is subtly complex, and somehow both the pepper and the tomato manage to play to each other's strengths. 

Don't be tempted to replace the whole crushed star anise with powdered anise instead - I've tried it, and it doesn't work!

For two.

Ingredients: 2 medium-small sea bream, gutted; olive oil, seasoning; 1 oz butter; half a medium onion; 1 large garlic clove, diced finely or crushed; 2 beef tomatoes, peeled; half a medium red pepper; one and half teaspoons dried thyme; i whole star anise.


1.  Place the fish in an oiled ovenproof dish. Crush the star anise roughly with a heavy rolling pin (or similar), so you have maybe a dozen pieces; divide these between the cavities of the two fish, along with half a teaspoon of dried thyme (again, divided equally between the two fish). Add a generous pinch of salt and a couple of grindings of pepper to the inside of each fish.

2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and gently sauté the finely diced onion for three or four minutes, until it has softened but not coloured. Cut the tomatoes into quarters, more easily to remove and discard the central 'root', and then cut each quarter into about twelve pieces. Add the tomato to the pan, along with the finely diced pepper, the remaining thyme, and the garlic clove. Simmer over a medium heat for about fifteen minutes, until the tomatoes have completely collapsed, and the mixture is quite thick. Add salt as desired (I normally find a scant teaspoon is sufficient).

3. Pour a tablespoon of oil over each fish, and then add the tomato-pepper mixture, effectively to cover the fish. Bake for 25 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 250 degrees C, and serve immediately on heated plates

I don't normally bother with an additional vegetable, as the tomato-pepper mixture is substantial enough to take the place of a vegetable. If you wanted something else, though, then some crisp Pommes Maxims would work well, and not fight with the provencal flavours of the fish and herbs.