Some dishes take hours of loving preparation, cooking and plating up to deliver the wow factor to the senses. Then there are some which punch so far above the sum of their parts you wonder if you’ve maybe forgotten something. Salt baking a fish is one of those dishes. Minutes of preparation plus a little cooking time delivers theatre to the table as well as flavour.
I included this in my #40by40 because it’s always been one of those dishes that stuck in my mind and I wanted to try cooking myself. I first saw it sat by the Mediterranean in Barcelona about ten years ago, and finally ate salt baked sea bass in Croatia five years later. The drama as the crust is peeled back to expose the moist flesh, amazing aromas of the sea filling your nostrils as the fish is boned and served never fail to please. Who’d have thought it would be so simple?
I certainly didn’t so when Tom Kitchin’s Kitchin Suppers book arrived last week I was delighted that there was a recipe for salt baked fish in it. I had a beautiful bream in the freezer and so made it for myself, I will try a bigger fish soon for guests. The salt crust simply consists of coarse and fine salt, egg white, water and herbs combined. The fish is covered, sealed, baked for 20 minutes and that’s pretty much it. I served the fillets which retained so much moisture and flavour with roast Apache potatoes, a buttery ‘native’ heritage variety along with wilted spinach and crowdie. Who says cooking for one is boring? Two down, 38 to go and I’m even more excited than I was at the beginning, two techniques learned if not mastered and so many more to go.