bream in a salt crust
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WARNING: there will be mess. You might end up with the kitchen covered in salt chipping merrily off the crust while trying to chisel in. You may well be serving scraps of fish gone cold. Ah, you might even give in and stick the roasting tray, salt and all in the middle of the table and pass the diners spoons to help themselves, medieval style.
It will still be worth it. Fish wonderfully moist, fragrant like an angel, flaking like the devil himself and the best bit – the house full of incredible smell of coriander, fennel and star anise roasting in hot salt.
I swiped the recipe off Jun Tanaka but drew a line at his instructions to get the fish gutted and boned through the back (???) – that’s way beyond my pay grade, so I used the fish normally gutted. In all honesty I don’t know if the spices in the crust render fragrance to the fish but as I said, the gorgeous smells from the baking make it taste as fragrant.
Sea bass is of course as good to use, and you might want to experiment with the salt crust dough which some recipes advocate – but just dumping a whole lot of salt over a fish seems so much easier, it’s a no brainer. Because as you can gather from the above – baking fish in a salt crust is actually a piece of gateau. Getting to eat it is a challenge.
bream in a salt crustServings: 2Time: just over an hour
- 1 large sea bream, cleaned and gutted but not scaled
- a few sprigs of mint and dill
- 1kg coarse sea salt
- zest grated from two lemons
- 10g ground coriander seeds
- 10g ground fennel seeds
- 3g ground star anise
- (If you have a spice of coffee grinder it’s a doddle, otherwise pestle and mortar it is, or buy ready-ground)
- various utensils to fillet the fish
Put the sprigs of mint and dill in the bream cavity and tie the fish around with butcher’s string to make sure the cavity is closed as much as possible.
Mix the spices and zest with the salt. Spread a thin layer of the seasoned salt in the bottom of a baking tray large enough to fit the bream, place the fish on the salt and cover it completely with the rest of the salt, forming a mound on and around it if necessary. Spray the salt with a little water to help it hold together.
Bake in an oven preheated to 200C/400F/gas 6 for 25-30 minutes, then let it stand for 5 minutes more.
Now crack open the crust carefully not to break the skin, lift the fish out (I didn’t, a bit too much salt got on the flesh), brush off the salt with a pastry brush, peel off the skin and fillet the meat off the bone, as neatly as you can (using as many utensils as you can...).
To fillet the bottom half either turn it over or lift the main bone and scoop out the flesh again.
Serve with green vegetables.