This last week, with its glut of leftovers, has forced me to rummage through and make an inventory of the contents of our freezer and my husband has tasked me with using the meat and fish contained therein before going out to buy any more. I’m afraid he doesn’t escape that lightly from this exercise as I have tasked him with concocting something from the not inconsiderable number of packets of soft fruit he bagged up in the late summer – raspberry and blackberry jam should soon be on the agenda with any luck.
This coming week will see me devising dishes from venison mince, veal steaks and tiger prawns amongst other things although Operation ‘freezer’ commenced on New Year’s Eve, with a pheasant tagine, using pheasant thighs from the secret stash. Last night’s supper, of (defrosted) pan-fried seabass accompanied by a bean stew, was just right for the time of year so I’ve decided to share the recipe. The fennel seeds flavour the dish superbly and complement the seabass, giving the dish a lovely freshness.
We drank a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from Saint Bris (by Simonnet-Febvre), a little-know French appellation not far from Chablis. It’s a light, crisp wine with typical gooseberry Sauvignon flavours and was ideal with the fish and the tomato-based stew.
I also enjoy preparing a similar sauce, using rosemary and thyme rather than fennel and cumin and a light, red wine in place of white, to go with a heavier fish such as tuna or swordfish.
Pan-fried seabass with a bean and fennel seed stew
2 sea bass fillets
400g tin of mixed beans (e.g. cannellini, black, kidney)
1 red onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tsps fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp dried oregano
4 bay leaves (optional – we have a bay tree in the garden which is very convenient)
400g tin cherry tomatoes
100ml dry white wine
100ml vegetable stock
Fry the onion and garlic gently in olive oil until soft. Bruise the fennel seeds and cumin seeds in a pestle and mortar and add to the onion and garlic, together with the oregano, and fry for a further two minutes to release their flavours. Add the white wine and let the sauce bubble for a minute or so before adding the tomatoes, stock and bay leaves. Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes and then add the mixed beans.
Pan-fry the sea bass fillets for two-three minutes on each side (start with the skin side). The skin should be crispy. Remove the bay leaves from the bean stew and serve in large pasta bowls, topped by the fish. Garnish with chopped parsley and slices of lemon.