It’s January, as if you hadn’t already noticed, and there are food ads, diet plans and weight loss programmes bombarding you everywhere you turn, as if you hadn’t already noticed. In fact, to not notice all this crap, you’d actually have to not go near your email, twitter, facebook, post box , bookshops, cinema, radio, TV or, in fact, open your eyes AT ALL for the month of January. Not really practical, to be fair. The only alternative way of getting around this annual visitor is to build yourself an iron mind, a backbone of steel, a Captain America shield or basically just know what you’re about- take some time away from all of the above nonsense to think about where you’re at yourself in terms of your health, lifestyle and diet and decide if you need or want to change anything. Don’t be manipulated by all the other crap swirling around you at the moment. You know where you’re at. You know what and if you need to change. Be the captain of your ship.
I love fish.
Fish and I spend a lot of time together. Some food prep is tedious and although I do like cooking, there are some days I wish someone else would just do it all for me and knock on my door when it’s ready to go in my mouth. Not for fish. I seriously enjoy prepping and cooking fish and I find it gives me a better appreciation and respect for the fish to prepare it from scratch.
Sad side story: I’ve been fishing many times but I have NEVER caught a single fish. Not even a small one that you throw back. None. Nada. Niente. I even bought a spanky new fishing rod a few years ago and spent hours in various locations around Kerry convinced I was going to break my bad fishing spell. Nope. The saga continues…
Sea Bream is one of my favourite fish to cook. Fillets fried on the pan are delicious- the skin crisps up and the flavour is rich and just on a whole other planet of yipee in my mouth. Better than fried chicken skin, word.
Whole sea bream roasted in the oven is equally good, if not better because fish cooked on the bone gives the meat a stronger, richer flavour and the skin crisps up beautifully again. And if you’re as into it as I am, you can suck the bones and eat the cheeks (chef’s secret tip right there!). Not as gross or weird as it sounds.
The huge plus of either doing it on the pan or cooking it in oven? It’s SO SIMPLE, SO DELICIOUS and there’s virtually no clean-up. Oh and it’s super good for you. Below is my go-to recipe for whole sea bream and the accompanying chickpeas are more fuss than the actual fish, though they are unbelievably good. I have been known to sit there eating my fish, pondering whether the chickpeas are actually better than the fish. Not out loud, obvs, because that would be weird.
Whole Roast Sea Bream with Chilli, Garlic and Thyme Chickpeas
- 1/2 small red onion (peeled and finely sliced)
- 1 red chilli (fresh, deseeded and finely diced)
- Clove of garlic (french, if you can get it)
- 1/2 tin of cooked chickpeas (drained)
- Fresh thyme
- 1 whole sea bream (or Bass, if you fancy it)
- A lemon
- Fresh rosemary
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
- Gut and wash the fish inside and out. De-scale if the fishmonger hasn’t done it for you. You’re gonna want to eat the skin and not miss out on this bit. Pat him dry with some kitchen paper
- Score the fish with 3 or 4 diagonal 1 cm small cuts along the back of the fish. Season inside and out with lots of salt and pepper and shove some sprigs of rosemary into the little cuts you just made and also inside the fish. Pop a few slices of lemon inside the fish as well.
- Place a few slices of lemon onto a baking tray and put the fish on top. You can use some sliced onion or potato or peppers underneath the fish either and they will cook and take on all the rich juices that come out of the fish. You’re basically just doing this to stop the fish sticking to the tray. But whatever you out underneath the fish will also become delicious.
- Cook in the oven for 15-20 mins depending on the size of the fish. You know it’s done when the eye starts to bulge (not as gross as it sounds) and the head looks like it’s jerked back a bit. Chef term, right there.
- Meanwhile, sweat the onion, garlic, thyme and red chilli in a frying pan for 10 mins until soft. Then toss in the chickpeas and enough chicken stock to cover the chickpeas generously. Bring to the boil and simmer until nearly all the liquid has reduced, giving you a rich sauce. Season with lots of salt 😉
Serve the sea bream alongside the chickpeas and some steamed green beans or other greens.