In our little seaside town of Bexhill-on-Sea we are now lucky enough to have two wonderful fishmongers. As lovers of fish and shellfish we are spoilt for choice. This weekend I decided to try out the new shop, which goes by the enchanting name of The Angry Whelk.
Big Man and I decided to avoid the Valentine’s Day menus in local restaurants. Not from a “bah humbug” point of view, we just decided that we’d rather have a relaxed Sunday at home with the pups and a meal of our choice.
The fishmonger had a fantastic display of fish but what really caught my eye was a beautiful red monster. A red snapper, or Red Emperor. It really was huge, far too big for the two of us, but unable to resist a bargain or a challenge I was soon heading home with the beast which weighed about 2kg.
A quick check on the internet told me that if I wanted to cook it whole, it was best to keep it simple with a sauce or something interesting on the side. Am so glad I followed this advice as the cooked dish was incredible. The fish has a meaty texture (perfect for anyone who does not like to grapple with fish bones) and a delicate (not very fishy) flavour. My monster fish would easily have fed 6, so today we’ll be eating leftovers lightly pan fried in olive oil just to warm them through and I’ve also frozen the rest to make a lovely fishy fideua another day.
Ingredients (depends on the size of your fish as to how many it will serve)
- 1 Red Emperor
- 1 lemon thinly sliced
- A handful of flat leaf parsley
- Salt flakes (I used Maldon)
- Olive oil
- Freshly ground pepper
- 2 slices of slightly stale sourdough bread (or similar)
- 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- The grated zest of an unwaxed lemon
- About 2 tablespoons of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. If your fishmonger has not already cleaned and gutted your fish, you’ll need to do this. I kept the head on as I think it adds flavour but this is personal choice. pat the fish dry with kitchen paper.
Line a large oven dish or tin with aluminium foil – enough to allow you to make a tent around the fish. Drizzle a little olive oil over the foil and rub and place the fish on top.
Season the cavity with salt and pepper and fill it with the lemon slices and the handful of parsley. Season the top of the fish and rub a little olive oil all over it before sealing it up loosely in a parcel.
Cooking time will depend on the size of the fish, mine took just over an hour but you can check that it’s cooked by pulling gently on the fin which is on the side of the body (it will be facing up towards you). As soon as you can pull this away easily, you’re done.
While the fish is cooking make the crouton/gremolata. Cut the bread into small croutons and fry in the olive oil until it is just starting to brown. Add the garlic at this stage and fry until the bread and garlic are golden. Allow to cool slightly and mix with the lemon zest and parsley.
When you are ready to serve, peel back the skin from the fish (it is thick and although I generally eat the skin on fish, this time the dish was better without). The fish comes away from the bones easily in large chunks. Serve with the garlicky, lemon croutons and an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.
Simple to prepare, you’ll dine like royalty….go on, be an Emperor or an Empress in your own lunchtime!