Bream No.2 – The One Without the Eyes
“I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully” – George W. Bush (2000)
I had intended to put both bream suggestions in my first post today – a sort of “Bream Two Ways” as it were – but that got rather long. So here is Bream 2.0 – this time using just the fillets – the easiest and quickest thing in the world to cook and two great vegetable ideas (both pinched from Gordon Ramsay) to serve with it. It feels very ‘clean’ this, even though pan-fried, and we tend to eat this without carbs as a light dinner mid-week.
So before we get started let’s have a (very) quick chat about bream shall we? Although not one of the super Omega-3 loaded oily fish, sea bream (like sea bass) is a classed as a “semi-oily” fish and has much higher levels of available Omega-3 than other white fish such as cod, coley or monkfish. It is a high quality low fat protein and is also packed with vitamins A, D and E and minerals. Current NHS guidance is, however, that sea bream should be treated like oily fish in terms of limiting weekly consumption, as it is at risk of some of the same pollutants. In reality though, and unless you are pregnant, this is only likely to be relevant to anyone eating loads of fish per week, which let’s face it isn’t most of us is it?
PAN-FRIED BREAM FILLETS (for 2)
Crazy Ingredient Rating: Low
- two bream fillets (approx 150/160g), skin on but pin boned.
- 1 tbsp olive oil*
- the ingredients for whichever of the two sides you fancy with it (below)
- Make whichever vegetable side you are going to have with it first, divide between plates and set aside (somewhere warm if it’s the peppers. The tomatoes are fine at room temperature).
- Once you are ready to cook your fish, slash it three times diagonally across the skin (I don’t always remember to do this and it’s no big deal) and then toss the fillets in the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.
- Heat a frying pan until it is really hot. Do not add any oil to the pan.
- Put the fillets into the hot pan, skin side down. THEY WILL CURL UP so press them down firmly with a spatula (one in each hand, or cook these one at a time which is what I often do) and after about 30 seconds or so they will stay flat. Let them cook for about 2 minutes – time it, it is longer than you think – and don’t be tempted to try to turn them or move them as you will tear the skin. It will look like they are irretrievably stuck to the pan, but they are not. This is very much a test of faith. Suddenly, after a couple of minutes, the skin is brown and crisp and releases itself from the pan. (I have cooked this in a copper pan with absolutely no non-stick coating and it works but if you have non-stick it is probably safest first time you try this).
- Once the skin is crispy, you should see that about 2/3rds of the top of the fish has turned opaque. Flip it over, baste it quickly with the oil in the pan and cook for 1 more minute MAXIMUM before checking that the flesh is opaque. It almost certainly will be. You really want it only just cooked. Pop the fillets onto the plates on top of the vegetables and eat straightaway.
TWEAK: If you have some saffron lying around that you fancy using, it makes a great marinade for the bream (particularly if you are eating it with the peppers) – put a big pinch into the olive oil and toss in the fillets. Season only with pepper at this stage and put back in fridge under cling film for 20 minutes while you make the sides. Remember, though, to add some salt just before cooking the bream.
THE VEGETABLES: I alternate between these two, the first is from Gordon Ramsay’s Healthy Appetite (where the saffron marinade also comes from) and the second from his Ultimate Cookery Course. Both are excellent accompaniments:
Sweet & Sour Peppers: finely slice 3 red or yellow peppers and stir fry in a little oil over a high heat for 4-5 minutes or until they are beginning to soften. Season and add 1/2 tsp sugar and a small splash of red wine vinegar and bubble for a few minutes until vinegar cooked down and peppers are tender. Adjust the sweet/sour with sugar and vinegar as you see fit. Tear over some basil leaves.
Tomato, Olive & Herb Salsa: Gently heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in a small saucepan. Chop the 200g of cherry tomatoes in half and add to the olive oil. Add 60g of pitted black olives, season and stir over a low heat for 1-2 minutes until the tomatoes are just beginning to break down. Take off the heat. Finely shred a small bunch each of coriander and basil (leaves only) and, keeping a little back for garnish, add to the salsa and stir through. Add the juice of 1/2 a lemon and set it all aside for the flavours to infuse. Garnish with the remaining herbs to serve.
Finally, before Hugh Fearnley-Huntingdon-Whiteley (I might have that wrong) and his leather necklace come and shout at me, I should add that sustainability wise, bream is a pretty good choice, particularly if you know it’s coming from an organically certified farm. Certainly, it is better than choosing bluefin tuna, most cod or skate. Over-fishing really is a problem and the MSC have this handy little guide (updated every year) to help us make better decisions – albeit it really isn’t that easy to know exactly how your fish was farmed or caught in the sort of detail envisaged by the MSC booklet (although you can look out for the MSC certified label on supermarket fish). But even if we only avoid the things on the red list and don’t really understand all of the words on the green/amber columns, it really is still better than nothing.