UPDATE: Since publishing this recipe I have learned that wild Sea Bass stocks are critically low. Scientists say that for stocks to begin to recover NO Sea Bass should be caught throughout 2017. Conservation groups such as the Marine Conservation Society are calling for ethical consumers to swap out wild Sea Bass for farmed Sea Bass, or replace it with one of the following green-listed fish:
• Haddock • Mackerel • Hake
Please help conserve fish stocks by only buying sustainable or certified fish. Read more about the state of wild sea bass stocks here.
This experiment with stuffing fish turned out exceptionally well. The fish is Sea Bass (in this case sold as Greek Sea Bass – indicating its Mediterranean origins) which has a mild flavour with tasty, meaty, white flesh. I stuffed it with a mixture including sheep’s cheese and humus – which proved to be a delicious combination. Only ten minutes of preparation later, and it was popped in the oven, and was on the table in close to forty minutes. I served it with a simple mixed salad from our garden.
Recipe: Stuffed Sea Bass – serves two
Two fresh Sea Bass – head and tail removed and gutted
Sheep’s Cheese (Parlick Fell – Sainsbury’s) 100g, grated
Olive oil (organic, Extra Virgin, unfiltered – Sainsbury’s)
Ground Almonds (organic, Rosemary Cottage Clinic’s own brand!)
The Sea Bass needs no further preparation once the head, tail and guts are removed (in this case by the fish monger at Waitrose). As we are going to stuff it you can’t have it filleted, but we are happy to eat around the bones. I usually remove the large scales as my family likes to eat the skin, but this is optional. (I descale with a blunt knife under running water.)
Parlick Fell is a wonderful British sheep’s cheese, sold in Sainsbury’s. I use it a lot, usually buying four packs at a time. It is crumbly, mild and nutty, tasting rather like a Wenslydale, and it cooks well. Most supermarkets sell organic humous, and it is easy to make oneself. Sainsbury’s organic, unfiltered, extra virgin olive oil is an excellent product and very reasonably priced and I definitely recommend its use. The fact that it is unfiltered is important as the polyphenols it contains are protective when it is heated. I use Spanish, organic ground almonds which I buy in bulk from a wholesaler, then package into 250g amd 500g bags which I then freeze. That way the precious oils do not become rancid and the ‘best before’ date is greatly extended. I always have some on the go in my fridge, and I supply them to my patients.
In a bowl thoroughly mix 1/2 a standard pot of houmous, i.e. about 150g with around 100g of grated cheese, a heaped tablespoon of ground almonds and one tablespoon of olive oil.
Dollop the mixture into the cavity of each fish, then arrange them in a glass dish. Drizzle a little olive oil over the fish, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid (if using aluminium foil avoid letting it touch the food). I am a real fan of Pyrex glass cookware and use my glass baking sheet as a lid when appropriate, as in this dish. Not only is glass non reactive and non toxic, but it is not a throw-away product. Mine goes through the dishwasher perfectly every time, and has not chipped or cracked at all. I found it at Sainsbury’s and am pleased to say that it states ‘Pyrex England‘ on it, so in buying it I supported my country’s economy, so that is another bonus!
Place in a preheated oven at 180°C (360F) for about half an hour.
This is how mine looked when it came out of the oven:
The stuffing has melted, oozed out and then browned nicely. The cheesy, garlic flavours of the stuffing go brilliantly with the delicious flavours of the fish, complementing without overwhelming them.
A simple green salad (I used chopped cucumber, lettuce, coriander leaf, basil leaf and rocket) made it a meal, but any fresh seasonal vegetables would work perfectly well too.
This is a really good dinner dish, and extremely easy and quick to make, but do watch out for the bones when eating it, as there certainly were some! This fish is very tasty indeed, light and delicate but with a real meaty quality too. The stuffing could be used to stuff other things too, not only fish! Be adventurous with it. I don’t normally eat beans, but this pot of houmous had made its way into my fridge and needed finishing, which is why I used it as the starting point for the stuffing. If you are avoiding all beans/legumes then try making the stuffing using just the cheese, ground almonds and olive oil, with some fresh garlic and/or herbs mixed in too. I am sure it would work just as well.