Baking firm-textured fish like bass, bream or red snapper in a sea salt casing is a delicious way to cook fresh fish. It seals and cooks the fish without any of the juices or flavour escaping. Furthermore it always looks far more impressive and difficult than it really is and works well for dinner parties or a special date. Do not worry about the sea bass flesh tasting too salty – if you close the body cavity properly the salt won't get inside.The most important thing is the sea bass should be fresh – look for; bright, clear eyes, the skin should be firm, shiny and metallic, and most importantly it shouldn't have a strong smell. When buying fresh fish you should always trust your judgement, if you have doubts it either won't taste as good or will make you ill!
- 1 sea bass (1.25kg/2.75lbs)
- 1 kg coarse sea salt
- a generous handful of dill
- The fish should be boned but still whole and you should allow about an hour for preparation and cooking.
- Put all the salt in to a glass bowl and mix with a little water so it binds together in to a workable thick paste, and cover the bottom of a baking tray with a layer big enough for the fish to a depth of 1cm/½inch.
- Stuff the cavity of the fish with most of the dill, leaving some for the garnish and place the fish on the salted baking tray.
- Preheat the oven to 250°C/480°F/Gas mark 9.
- Now cover the whole fish (Apart from the head and tail which aren't going to be eaten) in a layer of sea salt, again to a depth of 1cm/½inch, and pack it down firm with your hands so the fish is encased with the salt.
- The baking tray should be placed in the oven for 45 minutes.
- Once ready, remove the baking tray from the oven. You will need to crack the salt crust with a knife and scrape any salt away and then remove the head and tail of the fish. You can remove the skin at this point as its usually easier for your guests, you should now portion the fish and plate it up.
- A drizzle of olive oil over the fish, some black pepper, and a sprinkling of the remaining dill should be all the garnish you need. A green salad would make an excellent accompaniment to this dish – vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, and trimmed green beans.