Roast fish, Greek styleCooking whole fish may seem daunting. However, it’s an excellent method and the perfect way to guarantee succulent meat.
Cooking whole fish might seem daunting, but it’s an excellent method and the perfect way to guarantee succulent meat, easier washing-up and lower cost. It’s easily adaptable to whatever accompaniments you have on hand (root vegetables in the autumn, fennel and tomatoes in the summer) or any flavours you feel like trying out (lemons and chillies, or lemongrass and coriander). The most important part is choosing the freshest fish possible.
I usually shop at Cees de Groot’s fish stall at the market. He always stocks the freshest fish and can help you make the best choice for whatever it is you’re cooking. For today’s recipe, I recommend sea bream (dorade in Dutch) or a similar whole fish. Sea bass (zeebaars) works perfectly, as does snapper (snapper or roodbaars). For an even cheaper alternative, try grey mullet (harder), which is often locally caught in the North Sea. In any case, pick whatever is freshest and fits your budget, and then ask the fishmonger to scale and gut the fish for you.
The recipe today is Greek in origin and works perfectly well throughout the year (though there is something to be said for having it on a sunny day with a glass of cold beer). Start by washing the fish under cold running water and patting them dry with some paper towels. Make 3 slits on each side, perpendicular to the length of the fish, until you just hit the bone.
Place the fish to one side and prepare the vegetables. Peel the potatoes and cut them into medium-sized wedges or slices. Slice the lemons into wedges and remove the pips. Then toss the potatoes, lemons, halved tomatoes and olives with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 150ml of water, 1 tablespoon of oregano, salt and black pepper in a large oven tray. Place the tray in the middle of an oven, preheated to 220˚C, and roast the dish for 35 minutes.
At that point take the tray out of the oven and stuff the cavities of the fish with the lemon wedges. Arrange the fish around the vegetables and return to the oven. Season the fish liberally with salt and drizzle with some olive oil. Roast for another 35-40 minutes (turning the fish over halfway through), until the skin is crisp and the potatoes are cooked through. Ideally, serve the fish and sticky/crisp potatoes on a big tray in the middle of a table with a large bowl of green salad and a bottle of crisp, dry white wine.Notes: Serves 4 Cost: €5-7 per person photo: Jeroen van Kooten