Roasted Sea Bass with Pastis (and a Camargue Rice Risotto)
This dish comes from a restaurant near Narbonne. Sea bass always tastes brilliant roasted with fennel herb, but the part of the dish that really enthused me was the little mould of Camargue rice cooked with some local olive oil. Somewhat irritatingly; the only Camargue rice you can buy in Britain is red - it is actually just brown rice with a slightly different-coloured husk. But for aficionados in the south of France, they also produce a small-grained rice that’s very similar to risotto rice. This is not really a risotto, but a riz pilaf, whose ingredients are rice, water, salt and a lovely olive oil.
|4 x 450g||sea bass, scaled|
|Olive oil for brushing|
|A large bunch||fennel herb|
|4 tbsp||pastis, such as Pernod or Ricard|
|Salt and freshly ground black pepper|
|Lemon wedges, to garnish|
|For the camargue rice risotto:|
|3 tbsp||olive oil|
|225g||Camargue rice, or risotto rice, such as Arborio or Camaroli|
You will need a rounded mould, such as a non-stick mini pudding basin or ramekin.
Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7 or as high as your oven will go. Brush each fish inside and out with olive oil and season inside and out with some salt and pepper. Push a small bunch of fennel herb inside the gut cavity of each fish and sprinkle it with a little of the pastis. Spread the remaining fennel herb over a large, oiled baking sheet and place the fish on top. Drizzle the fish with a little more oil and the rest of the pastis and set to one side.
For the Camargue rice ‘risotto’, heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pan, add the rice and fry gently for 1 minute. Add the boiling water and the salt, bring back to the boil, cover and cook over a low heat for 20 minutes. Then turn off the heat and leave undisturbed for a further 5 minutes.
After the rice has been cooking for 10 minutes, put the sea bass into the oven and roast them for 15 minutes.
To serve, lift the fish, together with some of the fennel herb, onto 4 warmed plates. Spoon some of the rice into a lightly oiled rounded mould, such as a non-stick mini pudding basin or ramekin, and press down gently. Turn it out alongside the fish, drizzle a little more extra virgin olive oil around the outside edge of the plate and garnish with lemon wedges.