A whole fish, plump with a stuffing of summer vegetables, is a splendid dish to bring to the table. I like using spinach, grated courgette or fennel, or perhaps young carrots to fill the fish with (avoid beetroot, it sends the fish pink). Some new potatoes, sliced and baked around the fish, are a thoroughly good thing, as would be a bottle of olive oil to pass around, to trickle over the fish and its stuffing once it’s on your plate. You do need the potatoes, though. No matter how large your sea bass is, it will still only be enough for two or three of you.
jersey royals 400g, or other new potatoes
olive oil 5 tbsp
spinach leaves 400g
dried chilli flakes 1 tsp
sea bass 1 whole, about 1kg
Set the oven at 180C fan/gas mark 6. Scrub the potatoes, then cut them into rounds about as thick as £1 coins. Toss them in half of the oil, seasoned with salt and black pepper, then place them on a shallow roasting tin, leaving an empty space in the middle in which to place the fish. Bake the potatoes for about 10 minutes.
Coarsely grate the courgette into a colander. Wash the spinach leaves but don’t shake them dry. Put them into a large pan, cover tightly, then place over a moderate heat for 2-3 minutes. Keep an eye on them, turning the leaves once they are starting to wilt. When they have softened in texture and brightened in colour, remove from the heat.
Put the spinach in a colander and run a little cold water through the leaves, then squeeze firmly to remove the water. Roughly chop the spinach. Wring the grated courgette in your hand to remove any moisture, then add to the chopped spinach and season with salt and the dried chilli flakes.
Remove the tray from the oven. Place the fish in the middle of the tin and fill the belly with the spinach and courgette stuffing, pushing it right into the cavity, then pour over the remaining olive oil and season lightly with salt and black pepper.
Bake the fish for 30 minutes, till the skin is starting to crisp and the potatoes are golden. Should they colour too quickly, cover them with a little kitchen foil. Remove from the oven and lift on to a serving dish, or fillet on the roasting tin if you prefer.