Pan fried sea bass on a bed of spicy steamed fennel

Something light for dinner after England’s 1-0 win over Ecuador. A fresh light sea fish with a delicate vegetable, steamed over a broth of sweet vermouth.

Not sure how to approach this idea, I decided to pan fry the bass in olive oil to give it a crispy skin and serve it on the steamed fennel instead of steaming it all together. An idea spawned from the Great British Menu was to cook the fish skin side down until the top side started to turn opaque, and then remove it from the heat to rest. This worked really well, one of the nicest pieces of home cooked Bass I have tasted.

Pan fried sea bass on a bed of spicy steamed fennel – Photo: Chris Summers

Removing the seeds from a red chili and finely slicing its flesh added a needed splash of color, and a fresh bite to the steamed fennel. Adding sweet vermouth to the broth also sweetened the fennel adding to its aromatic flavor.

I tried making a lemon sauce for this dish, but it really didn’t go, so it was left out. Something like a sweet chili sauce would be much better, but it was fresh and tasty with just a drizzle of sesame oil.

Not mushroom on the grill

In my article about buying a new grill, I mentioned that my grill was too small. Part of that reason was due to cooking more than the meat element. Most of my friends are also a barbecue enthusiasts’ nightmare, they are vegetarians. Rather than excluding the veggie eaters from the party, I see this as a challenge, and it’s one of the reasons I have invested so much time into the vegetable barbecue.

On Monday night, unquestionably the star feature of the main course what the grilled Portobello mushroom with blue cheese. Two of my guests won’t eat cheese, and it works equally well without the cheese. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures, so I made them again with a goal of taking some photos.

Grilled Portobello Mushroom – Photo: Chris Summers

The dish is a very suitable starter or side dish, but equally a really large (or two smaller Portobellos) could be presented as a main course. Wash the outside of the mushroom, being careful not to get the gills too soggy, and place the mushroom cup side up on a plate. Sprinkle it with some olive oil, salt and pepper and drop a few knobs of butter on the top. Today I topped it with a few blobs of Brie and a sprinkle of fresh thyme instead of the butter. Other alternatives could be blue cheese or finely chopped garlic and other herbs.

For best effect these are cooked very slowly, away from the direct heat. This allows the juices of the mushroom to slowly come out and make it really soft. I normally put them on the top shelf of my grill before I put the meat on and cook them for about 40 minutes. They also work just fine in the oven (about 180 degrees C for 25 minutes). They can be a bit greasy, and if you use cheese they can be very rich, so I tend to serve them with a strong tasting salad of something like arugula or watercress. I hope they bring you as much joy as they have my guests.

Boschendal Pinot Noir \ Chardonnay 2005

Boschendal Pinot Noir \ Chardonnay 2005

I had this with a grilled fillet of sea bass served on a bed of fennel which had been sauteed in the fish juices and a splash of this wine. It was 30 degrees centigrade outside, so I served the wine quite chilled.

It was perfect with the fish, with the unusual color it made the perfect talking point for our meal