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Baked bream with wilted spinach, radish and nero sauce

Plonk Colin McGurran's whole, pastry-encased bream in front of diners and they are sure to be impressed. Once the fillets are removed it transforms into an intricate, restaurant-style seafooddish - with a dazzling squid ink sauce and spinach for accompaniment. If you can't get hold of Noilly Prat for this baked bream recipe you can use any good quality dry vermouth.


BREAM 1 bream, weighing 600g, whole and gutted

1/2 lemon

6 basil leaves

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

2 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley

2 sprigs of fresh coriander

4 star anise SALT CRUST PASTRY 50g of fresh thyme, finely chopped

50g of rosemary

1600g of strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting

700g of salt

15 egg whites

370ml of water

2 egg yolks, for egg wash NERO SAUCE 1 tsp squid ink

60g of shallots, peeled and finely sliced

1 sprig of fresh thyme

1 bay leaf, small

200ml of Noilly Prat vermouth, plus a drop extra to serve

600ml of fish stock

100ml of double cream

60g of unsalted buttersaltpepper TO SERVE 200g of spinach, picked and washed

4 radishes, picked and washed

1 knob of butter




1 To make the salt crust pastry, mix all of the ingredients together until they form a dough. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for half an hour

2 Meanwhile, make the nero sauce. Add the shallots, thyme, bay leaf and Noilly Prat to a saucepan and reduce by a third over a high heat, this should take approximately 5 minutes

  • 60g of shallots, peeled and finely sliced

  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme

  • 1 bay leaf, small

  • 200ml of Noilly Prat

3 Pour in the fish stock and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes before adding the cream. Reduce the sauce over a high heat until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon

  • 600ml of fish stock

  • 100ml of double cream

4 Remove the thyme and the bay leaf, add the squid ink and blitz the sauce in a blender for one minute. Pass through a damp muslin cloth, transfer back into a pan, cling film and set aside until ready to serve

5 Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Place the herbs, star anise and half a lemon inside the belly of fish and set aside

6 Roll out the salt crust pastry to over twice the size of the fish. Carefully fold the pastry over the whole fish, keeping close to the fish to follow the shape. Leave a little extra over the top edge of the fish so you can create the spiky dorsal fins

7 Using the offcuts of pastry, create fins and eyes for the fish, brushing them with egg wash to stick them on. Very carefully, use a knife to score scales into the pastry and cut dorsal fins along the top edge of the fish

8 Brush the entire pastry covered fish with egg wash and place into the oven to bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes

9 Meanwhile, place a large pan over a medium heat and add a knob of butter. Add the spinach and cook until wilted down, seasoning with salt and pepper

10 Reheat the sauce in a pan over a low heat - do not allow it to boil. Gradually whisk in the butter then season with salt, pepper and add a drop of Noilly Prat to refresh the sauce

11 To serve, place the baked fish on a serving platter or board, and using a knife, carefully crack the pastry, starting from the top edge. Remove a section of the pastry an ease the flesh off the bone until completely removed. Repeat of the opposite side and divide between 2-4 plates12Serve the fillets with some of the nero sauce, wilted spinach and garnish with the whole radishes

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