My guests were literally gushing over this one. I’d call this the perfect fish dish for the colder season. It is hearty, warming and delightful.
I’ve always been a fan of playing around with meaty flavours to complement fish. I’ve also always been a fan of classic flavour combinations. This dish combines both those passions seamlessly
Potato, leek and mushrooms? Tick
A saffron enriched bouillabaise with fish and mussels? Tick
Chorizo and tomato with fish? Tick
Potatoes with fish? Tick
Together with its striking colours, you can’t go wrong here.
I’ve used sea beam as it’s such a gorgeous yet much underused fish. But you could use sea bass, cod, hake or any other white fish you like (or that’s on special offer, as my sea bream was)
Don’t be put off by the long ingredients list. Theres nothing too fancy, except perhaps the saffron. And the recipe itself is easier than you may think. A welcome breath of fresh air in the winter season that tends to be dominated by meat, game and stews.
The rich bouillabaisse sauce alone is already amazing. It’s great with gnocchi and pasta, as a base for a pot of mussels or even as a soup with some crusty bread for dunking . Have a look at the leftover section below, where I teamed it up with shop-bought butternut gnocchi.
Sea Bream with Mussels, Warm Chorizo Salsa and Bouillabaisse Sauce (serves 4 – GF LC RSF)
I managed to get hold of some foraged winter garlic leaves for this, but you can use chives instead. Leave out the chorizo salsa and use vegetable or fish stock if you want to make this dish pescetarian friendly.
The bouillabaisse sauce is adapted from a recipe from the wonderful Marcello Tully.
All the elements except the fish can be prepared in advance to then reheat for serving.
4 sea bream fillets, trimmed and each cut into half lengthwise
4-6 generous tbsp seasoned flour
2 tbsp butter or ghee
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
For the sauce:
2-3 anchovy fillets
1 generous tbsp oil from the anchovy jar
1 onion or 2 banana shallots, chopped
1 leek, sliced
1 celery stick, chopped
1 large or 2 small carrots, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 sprigs of thyme or a bouquet garni
the mussel cooking liquor (see below)
1 chicken jelly stock pot
1 heaped tbsp tomato puree
2 sea bream or other boneless white fish fillets or cut-offs
50 ml whipping cream
a pinch of saffron
few good shakes of Tabasco to taste
a few good shakes of Worcestershire sauce to taste
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 tsp unrefined caster sugar
a small handful of wild garlic or some fresh chives
For the Chorizo salsa
200 gr cooking chorizo, skin removed and finely chopped
2 banana shallots, finely sliced or chopped
1 clove of garlic, fineley chopped
150 gr cherry tomatoes, halved
1 thyme sprig
For the mussels:
12-20 live mussels
1 bottle white wine
Heat the anchovies and anchovy oil in a large pan over medium heat. Once hot and sizzling, add all the sauce vegetables up to and including the garlic and thyme or bouquet garni if using, Turn the heat down and cook for 10 mins or so, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent.
Meanwhile add the mussels and the wine to another pan. Cover with a lid and cook over medium heat for about 5 mins or until the mussels are open. Don’t overcook them , else they will be tough when reheated later.
Strain the liquid from the mussels and sieve to ensure there is no grit. Keep the mussels warm in aluminium foil, or chill until needed.
Add the mussel liquor to the vegetables, together with the chicken stock jelly. If the liquid does not cover the vegetables, top up with a little water.
Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 45 mins or so,
Add the sea bream for the sauce and simmer for another 10 mins or so.
Remove the thyme or bouquet garni and transfer the sauce to a blender. Blitz until smooth. Push through a sieve into a clean pan.
Add the remaining sauce ingredients except the wild garlic or chives. Check the seasoning and keep warm or chill until needed. Only add the wild garlic 10 mins before serving. And if using ch liives,terally just before serving.
Fry off the chorizo in a dry pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic. Continue cooking for 5-8 mins or until the shallots are translucent.
Add the tomatoes, thyme and S&P, turn the heat down and cook until you have a pasty salsa, about 30-40 mins or so. Check the seasoning and keep warm or chill until needed.
When ready to eat, gently reheat the sauce, salsa and mussels while you fry the fish. The mussels are best gently re-heated in foil over a steamer set over the sauce to ensure they don’t overcook.
Add the seasoned flour to a plastic food bag. Drop each fish fillet piece in the flour bag and toss to coat, remove and dust the next one until all are dusted on all sides.
Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and add the oil and butter. Once hot and sizzling, add the fish fillets. Cook over medium heat until, the skin is golden and crisp. Turn the fillets over and turn off the heat. The residual heat in the pan will continue cooking the other side.
To assemble, divide a few tbsp of sauce over each of 4 plates to cover. Top with a potato cake, if using. Top each potato cake with a tbsp of the chorizo salsa. Add 2 fish fillets on tip. Then another tbsp of the chorizo salsa. Add a few mussels around your fish tower and serve.
Crushed Potato Cakes with Leek and Mushrooms (serves 4 – GF DF V Vg RSF)
These go with anything and are equally lovely for breakfast or brunch with an egg on top.
650 gr potaoes, skin on (I used Yukon Gold)
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 small leek, thinly sliced
100 gr mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
zest of a lemon, grated (optional)
Steam or boil the potatoes until tender.
Meanwhile heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the leeks and fry, stirring often until softened.
Add the mushrooms, garlic and seasoning. Cook until the mushrooms have softened and turn off the heat.
Drain the potatoes and crush each roughly with a fork or a spoon or a potato masher. You want to keep some texture.
Add the potatoes to a large bowl together with the leek and mushroom mix. Season and add the lemon zest if using. Mix everything together. I find this easiest to do with my hands, slightly crushing the potatoes further if needed.
Form the potato mix into 4 cakes (patties). You can chill them at this stage or continue with frying them.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the potato cakes and fry on one side until golden, about 4 mins. Turn and continue frying the other side until golden, another 3 mins or so.
The potato cakes can be chilled at this stage until ready to use. Else keep them warm in a 160 C oven while you finish the rest of the meal.
If reheating, reheat in a 180 C oven for 20-25 mins or so.
I had lots of mussels and sauce leftover, some extra cherry tomatoes and also some of the chorizo salsa. So I fried shop-bought pumpkin gnocchi in a little oil until golden (about 5-7 mins). Meanwhile shelled the mussels, and gently heated them in the leftover sauce, adding the remaining salsa and extra halved cherry tomatoes. I also added extra wild winter garlic that was left.
What a discovery: frying the gnocchi and serving these slightly crisp little nuggets on top of the sauce rather than mixing them with the sauce meant they were so much more enjoyable to eat. I had used these gnocchi before and boiling them according tot he packet instructions rendered them rather stodgy and tasteless.
Here, they really shined! A fabulous meal that genuinely rivaled the original dish.
Any left over potato cakes are delicious for brunch or lunch. Here I topped then with ham and cheese and heated them in the oven until the cheese melted. Finished them with a fried egg each and served them on rocket with cherry tomatoes and amazing pink radicchio that I had left over from my poached pear salad.