Eating a whole fish is such a great way to eat as a family, sharing is the best. Sometimes buying a whole fish can be cheaper than buying fillets, so always ask your fish monger for the special. The fish always has to be FRESH! When their eyes are shiny, you know the fish is fresh.
Fish and fennel are a match made in heaven. A lot of people in my family don’t like fennel but roasting it makes the flavour a lot more subtle.
1 medium-large whole firm fish, butterflied, ask you fishmonger (I used Soldier Fish)
1 heaped tsp dried chilli flakes
2 fennel bulbs, halved and finely sliced, keep leaves
1 large red onion, halved and roughly sliced
3 whole garlic cloves
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 lemons, 1 zested then juiced, 1 cut into wedges
pinch of saffron threads (optional)
200ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
250g baby plum tomatoes
Sea salt and black pepper
200g diced bacon (optional)
½ cup of good quality white wine
½ cup chicken stock
Preparation 10 minutes
Cooking to time 30 minutes
Heat oven 180°C.
Place a small frying pan on high heat and fry the diced bacon, until just crispy-ish (this adds an amazing smokey flavour, but if you don’t eat it, leave it out).
Put the chopped fennel, onion, whole garlic and tomatoes in a large roasting tin and toss with 2 tbsp olive oil and plenty of seasoning. Roast for 20 minutes until almost tender and starting to caramelize.
Meanwhile, put the couscous in a medium bowl. Mix the saffron and hot stock, pour over the couscous and cover with cling film/a large plate.
Pat the fish dry. Open the fish up and season with salt, pepper, a teaspoon of lemon zest and some chilli flakes. The close the fish and score deeply on both sides, season with salt, lemon zest, chilli flakes.
Stir the bacon into the tin and pour over the wine and stock. Then sit the fish on top and scatter over half of the pine nuts. Roast for about 20 minutes, depending on its size.
To see if it’s cooked, look for juices running from the scores in the flesh. Tug gently on the back fin, if it comes away easily, the fish is cooked 🙂
Once the fish is beautifully cooked, scatter over the rest of the pine nuts and fennel fronds. Take the tin to the table with lemon wedges and couscous.
To serves: gently lift the fillets from the top of the fish, leaving behind the bones, then turn over and repeat. Share out the couscous, veggies and gorgeous sauce.
I had to cook my pine nuts separately as my brother is highly allergic to nuts.