Whole baked sea bass on potatoes

A wonderful meal for four people. Whole sea bass is roasted on a layer of potatoes with herbs and a punchy dressing, served with a flavour-packed pickled walnut salad.

Ingredients

For the pickled pumpkin and walnut salad

  • 500g/1lb 2oz small, young delica pumpkin (or other young pumpkin), quartered and deseeded but not peeled, very thinly sliced on a mandoline
  • 200ml/7fl oz cider vinegar
  • 50g/1¾oz caster sugar
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • good pinch chilli flakes
  • few sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
  • 4 generous handfuls wild rocket
  • 30g/1oz toasted flaked (or chopped) walnuts
  • 150g/5½oz curd cheese, to serve
  • extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle

For the dressing

  • 8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or marjoram)

For the sea bass

  • 1.5kg/3lb 5oz large waxy potatoes, such as Desiree or Charlotte, cut into into 8–10mm thick slices
  • 4 fat garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 8 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained and sliced
  • 1.75kg/4lb whole sea bass (or red snapper), gutted and scaled
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, thinly sliced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 lemon leaves (if you can get them)
  • sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. For the salad, arrange the pumpkin in a shallow ovenproof dish. In a saucepan, mix together the vinegar, sugar, coriander seeds and 200ml/7fl oz water, then bring to the boil. Pour this mixture over the pumpkin, add the chilli flakes and thyme, cover and leave to pickle for at least 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6.
  3. For the dressing, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, salt and some pepper, then stir in the oregano.
  4. For the sea bass, put the potatoes in a large roasting tin in which the fish can lay either lengthways or diagonally. Add 6 tablespoons of the dressing, the garlic and anchovies. Toss well, spread out in an even layer and roast for 30–35 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, slash the flesh of the fish 5–6 times on each side. Season the cavity with salt and pepper, then stuff it with the lemon, bay and lemon leaves, if using.
  6. Remove the potatoes from the oven and release them from the bottom of the tin if they have stuck. Brush the outside of the fish with a little of the remaining dressing and season with salt and pepper. Put it on top of the potatoes and pour any remaining dressing into the cavity. Return to the oven for 35 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through and the potatoes are tender.
  7. When ready to serve, divide the pumpkin between four plates and add generous helpings of rocket. Scatter with walnuts and cheese, drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with the fish and potatoes.
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