Monday, May 30, 2011

Baked Sea Bream with Potatoes and Thyme

What a busy month. I can't belive that we are almost in June - what happened to May? I've been busy with a new job, recovering husband (from a slipped disc), weekend guests, our wedding anniversary and buying a new house. I've been busy cooking and have lots to share but time to do so has been scarce. Here's hoping for a more relaxed June!

We've been enjoying lots of fish recently. Inspired by a favourite recipe book (Mitch Tonks - 'Fish'), we tried out an interesting dish with two beautiful gilt-head bream which my husband picked out at our local fishmonger. Sea bream is becoming a real favourite of ours - flavoursome without being too 'meaty' in texture. We find that a whole fish is just right for my husband but a little too much for me - it all depends on appetite. Bream can take some pretty punchy flavours and this recipe is full throttle with red peppers, roasted garlic, thyme, olives, tomatoes and chilli. It had a distinctly Mediterranean feel to it and was superb with a full-flavoured southern French rose.

This is an all-in-one dish with potatoes cooked under the fish, a garlicy tomato sauce with roased red peppers all topped with crispy chilli-flecked breadcrumbs. We like a bit of greenery and served some green veg on the side too, but it wasn't really necessary. Mitch Tonks' recipe used a rather startling amount of oil in which to cook the potatoes. I couldn't bring myself to use as much as he suggested (200ml) and next time I would use even less. I've put the quantity I used here, but I did find the potatoes a little oily. We were also out of olives which was a shame, but it was delicious without too.

Baked Sea Bream with Potatoes and Thyme
Adapted from 'Fish' by Mitch Tonks

Serves 4 (although we ate the lot between 2, using smaller fish, half the quantity of garlic and fewer potatoes)


4 waxy potatoes such as Charlotte
1 red pepper
1 head garlic, unpeeled
3tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 sea bream, about 450g each (or smaller if only 2 of you). Ask the fishmonger to scale and gut!
6 whole canned tomatoes
1 pinch dried chilli flakes
50g black olives (optional)
50g fresh, coarse breadcrumbs drizzled with olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 240C.

2. Peel (or scrub) potatoes and blanch in boiling water for a few minutes. Drain and dry and set to one side.

3. Place the pepper (whole) into a roasting tin with the whole head of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast in the oven for approx 15 minutes. Remove the garlic from the tray (checking first that the cloves are soft and squidgy). Return pepper to oven and roast for 5 minutes more or until soft and blackened. Place pepper in a plastic bag, seal the top and leave to cool.

4. Divide the garlic into individual cloves, but do not peel. When the pepper is cool enough to handle, remove skin and seeds, reserving any juices.

5. Pour the olive oil into an ovenproof dish (large enough to hold both fish). You need enough oil to coat the bottom of the dish. Arrange the potato slices over the bottom and sprinkle with sea salt and the thyme leaves.

6. Rub the fish with a little olive oil and salt and arrange on top of the fish. Bake in oven for around 12 minutes.

7. Remove fish from oven and arrange the garlic cloves and olives around the fish. Slice pepper into strips and arrange in the dish too. Squeeze tomatoes over the fish and potatoes to release the juice and add these to the dish too. Pour any juices from the pepper over the fish and sprinkle the chilli flakes over the top. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top of everything and bake for a futher 8 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

8. Place the dish in the centre of the table and dig in!