Whole baked fish with sun-dried tomatoes
Don't get fatter, leave off the batter! Baking fish such as sea bass whole is the very best way of cooking them, as it preserves and the flavours and delicious juices - and it's a great dish for sharing!
- 1 medium red onion, sliced
- 1 yellow or orange pepper, deseeded and cut into 3cm pieces
- 175g new potatoes, cut into 1cm slices
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 slice of ciabatta bread (about 25g), cut into 1cm chunks
- 3 sun-dried tomato pieces in oil, drained well
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 15g pine nuts (preferably Italian)
- Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- Handful of fresh basil, roughly shredded
- 1 whole sea bass, gutted and scaled (about 550g once prepared)
- Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
- Flaked sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 220°C/Fan 200°C/Gas 7. Put the sliced onion, pepper and new potatoes on a large baking tray and drizzle with 1 teaspoon of the oil. Season with a little salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Toss the veg together well and spread them out on the tray. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly browned and beginning to soften.
While the vegetables are cooking, make the stuffing for the fish. Put the ciabatta pieces in a large non-stick frying pan and place it over a medium heat. Cook for 4–5 minutes, turning regularly until the chunks of bread are lightly toasted.
Cut the sun-dried tomatoes into thin strips and finely slice the garlic. Add the pine nuts, garlic and tomatoes to the frying pan and toss together over a low heat for 2 minutes more until the nuts are lightly toasted. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes. Add the parsley and basil leaves and toss together.
Working carefully as some sea bass fins are very spiky, slash the fish diagonally with a knife 4 times down each side. Sprinkle with half the lemon juice, making sure plenty goes into each cut and season with black pepper. Take the tray with the vegetables out of the oven and turn them with a spatula. Push the veg into a heap down the centre of the tin and place the fish on top.
Open the fish and spoon the bread, tomato and herb filling inside. Don’t worry if a few pieces fall on to the tray but try to keep them close to the fish or they could burn. And remember that the baking tray will be hot, so watch your fingers. Close the fish and drizzle with the remaining lemon juice and the rest of the oil.
Bake for 20–25 minutes or until the fish is just cooked and the filling is hot. Check by sliding a knife into the thickest part of the fish and peering inside – the fish should look white and a little flaky rather than translucent. Serve right away – nothing else needed.