Monday, 8 November 2010

Crispy sea bass with couscous and olives

Cooking with olives is not something we often do in the UK so the tangy green olives in this feel rather exotic, but work well to punctuate and lift the rich flavours of the roasted vegetables and lightly spiced sea bass.

I used Moroccan smen (a type of clarified, fermented sheeps butter) that I definitely did not sneak back into the country, oh no. Having just looked it up, that would have been illegal, apparently.

Butter would do just as well, but it is important to add one or the other as it adds a richness to the dish that stops the cous cous being just another starchy chore.

Serves 2

2 sea bass fillets, about 125g each
1 tsp Moroccan spice for fish (or a mixture of turmeric, ginger, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, black pepper, cumin, coriander, and paprika)
150g baby plum tomatoes
1 aubergine, cut into 1" cubes
100g banana shallots, peeled and quartered length ways
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp smoked chilli flakes
3 tbsp olive oil
 1 cup cous cous
1 cup boiling water
½ cup green olives
a small bunch of fresh oregano and parsley, chopped
2 tbsp smen, ghee or salted butter

1) Toss the aubergine, shallots and tomatoes in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large roasting tin and scatter over the smoked chilli and cumin. Season lightly with salt, and bake at 425f/220c/gas mark 7 for about 30 mins, or until the vegetables are lightly browned and soft.

2) 10 minutes before the vegetables are done: Melt the smen or butter in a small pan that has a tight fitting lid, then turn off the heat and stir in the cous cous and a tiny pinch of salt, making sure every grain has been coated with the oil. Now add the boiling water, give the pan a quick shake, then clamp on the lid and leave to sit for 10 minutes.

3) 5 minutes before the vegetables are done: Score the fish skin lightly to prevent it curling when it cooks, then add the remaining olive oil to the sea bass fillets and rub in the fish spice and a little salt. Heat up a non stick frying pan until smoking hot, then add the fish, skin side down. Allow the fish to sizzle for 2-3 minutes, then turn over and turn off the heat.

4) Fluff up the cous cous with a fork (never a spoon or it will go claggy) then stir the olives and herbs into the vegetables, pile them onto the cous cous and top with the fish.

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