Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Recipe corner: Sea bass with Parmesan risotto and cherry tomatoes

Sometimes, when we’re dining out, D and I like to play a guessing game whereby we try and predict what the other will order. Yes, I know what you’re thinking – you’re thinking how much fun it would be to have us as dining companions and you’d be right. Barrel of laughs, that’s us. But it’s a long standing tradition now.

The thing is, the game has revealed me to be distressingly predictable when it comes to certain ingredients. If a given item appears on the menu that D knows I am 99% likely to choose it. I make it too easy. And I am not particularly motivated to fight those inclinations.

Sea bass, for example. Or just plain bass as I believe we should call it now. It is, quite simply, one of my absolute favourite things. If it pops up on a menu D has the game won because I just can’t resist. It seems odd, therefore, that I don’t cook with it more – particularly since it is so low in points as well! A decent sized fillet is just 3 pro points, not much more than 100 calories.

I tend to associate sea bass with Mediterranean type flavours; for a fairly delicate fish it goes surprisingly well with a range of robust ingredients. Equally, it can hold its own in the face of spice, and I have had it served in with an Indian curry style sauce that worked very well indeed. This weekend though, I went very simple to allow all the lovely, natural flavour to sing.

Incidentally this risotto, though as basic as basic can be, is absolutely delicious and would work as an accompaniment for all sorts of ingredients. Don’t be put off by the seemingly meagre portion of rice, it is rich enough to be perfectly satisfying.


2 x sea bass fillets (about 120g each)
Tbsp olive oil

Cherry tomatoes (preferably on the vine – they look so pretty!)

30g butter
Shallot, finely chopped
60ml vermouth (use white wine if you haven’t got any)
100g Arborio rice
300ml chicken stock
40g Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Serves 2, 16 pro points per portion

Switch the oven to 180 and whack in the cherry tomatoes to roast – they’ll take about 30 minutes but are relatively forgiving.

For the risotto, melt half the butter in a sturdy pan and, when ready, soften the shallot. When it is translucent (do not allow it to brown, you want mellow flavours here) tip in the rice, stir well to ensure that it is coated and then add the vermouth and allow to bubble off.

At this stage you know the drill: add a ladle of stock at a time and stir briskly, bashing the grains of rice about the pan, to absorb. Continue to do this for as long as it takes to cook the rice to the al dente stage – I would say about ten minutes, but keep checking the grains and work to your own taste. You may find you don’t use all the stock.

The fish will take about four minutes to cook, so time it to coincide roughly with the risotto being ready. Season the fillet well – the skin in particular needs a good sprinkling of salt. When ready, heat the oil in a pan – you want it really hot to enable you to get a good, crisp skin without overcooking the fish. Place the fillets skin side down into the hot pan and leave for three minutes. After that, flip them, turn the heat right down and allow them just a further minute to finish cooking.

When the risotto is cooked, add the remainder of the butter and the Parmesan, cover and leave to sit for a minute or so – don’t be tempted to skip this step, it really does make a difference.

Serve risotto and fish garnished with the cherry tomatoes and reflect upon the fact that, however predicable you may be, at least you have excellent taste.


  1. That sounds just lovely! Can I be a pedant though and point out that Italians don't add parmesan to their risotto when serving it with fish!

    1. You most certainly can! I happen to enjoy the combination of fish and cheese but I know it is not necessarily smiled upon in purist circles!