There is nothing better than a simply cooked piece of fish and simply cooked vegetables, throw in a cheat sauce and your lunch is ready in no time at all.
There are many ways to cook fish, but if you want the crispy skin then I would go pan fried all the time. Plus the indulgence of cooking in butter is a must.
Step 1: Ingredients
To make this dish for 2 you will need the following:
- 2 fillets of sea bass, your fishmonger can do this for you
- Salt and pepper
- 1 knob of butter
- 1 yellow bell pepper, thickly sliced and the seeds removed
- Around 10 cherry or vine tomatoes, roughly sliced in half or left whole
- 1 bunch of asparagus with the tough ends broken off, this will be anywhere between 10 and 15 pieces, depends on the thickness of the asparagus. If they are a very thick then give them a little longer or slice them length ways
- 2 Tbsp of spicy pesto, or any pesto you like, simply from a jar
- 100ml dry white wine
- 1 handful of flat leaf parsley, you will only need the leaves which you can just pick off
- optional, a little water in case you want to loosen the sauce
- some mixed leaf to your liking, you could use rocket, watercress, spinach or what ever you like in any combination you like
Step 2: Get Those Pans Hot - Fish Prep
The vegetables with the exception of the asparagus will be cooked in a griddle pan, you want charing so this needs to be as HOT as possible, put this on full wack.
NOTE: do not put oil on the griddle otherwise you will be frantically opening windows and hitting the smoke detector. You wont need oil and it will only burn which will ruin lunch and no one wants that!
Put another pan on a medium heat and allow to heat up while seasoning the fish, season both sides with salt and pepper. Salt on the skin will help to give you that infamous crispy skin. You could score the skin if it is a thick fillet which will actually help the heat to permeate allowing the fish to cook quicker. But there really isn't any need.
TIP: Never put put your fish into a cold pan, you want it to be up to temperature first for a nice crispy skin.
Step 3: Start the Cooking
Put your peppers on the griddle, these are going to char and blacken which is just what we want, they will go soft and sweeten as the natural sugars cook.
In the fish pan, put a good knob of butter, let this melt down for a few seconds and move the butter around the pan. Then, gently lay the fish in the pan skin side down - do not touch the fish or the pan now, it can be tempting to mess around with the fish but you want the skin the crisp up and the meat to gently cook.
TIP: Don't be tempted to move the pan around and mess with the fish, just let it cook.
Step 4: Perfect Fish
Keep an eye on your peppers, move them around.
After 4 - 5 minutes you will see the edge of the fish at the thinnest points start to turn a light white colour, when this happens it is time to turn the fish. Take a fish slice and very carefully turn the fish over, keep close to the pan so not to splash butter everywhere and keep the delicate fish in one piece. Cook the fish for 2 - 3 minutes more, keep checking it to make sure it doesn't overcook/ burn.
Get some foil or a plate ready for when the fish is cooked to put it to one side.
Check the fish by gently lifting it with the fish slice and peaking underneath, it should be just brown, remove from the pan and put to one side.
TIP: Fish is considered tricky and many people over cook it but if you keep an eye on it then it is really easy, as soon as the fish looses it raw colour and the flakes of meat just start to come away from each other it is ready. Just be patient and as soon as it is done, get it out of the pan.
Step 5: Fast Asparagus
Now we are coming to the end and the last of the ingredients cook super fast.
Turn the peppers again and throw the wine in the fish pan, you want to save all the delicious flavour from the pan so don't wash it first. This is called deglazing the pan.
Put the asparagus in the wine and put a lid on top, the asparagus will take around 2 minutes to become tender and steaming them in wine and the fish butter will make them shinny and delicious.
At the same time, put your tomatoes on the griddle, they will cook fast because of the sweet sugars and the soft flesh. They will be ready around the same time as the asparagus.
Step 6: Don't Waste the Wine
Asparagus really doesn't take very long, as soon as the stems are tender use some tongs and get them out of the pan, put to one side for plating up later.
Don't throw the wine away from the fish pan, this is going to be the base for the super simple sauce - the flavours of the fish and asparagus are too good to waste.
Step 7: Sauce Time - Quick Cheat
When it comes to sauces there is nothing more rewarding than making your own from scratch but sometimes you want something quick and easy so there is no shame in using a nifty cheat here and there.
For this one the secret is pesto (you could even make your own pesto), here we used a spicy tomato pesto. Add your pesto to the wine in the pan and mix in. You may need to add a splash of water to loosen the sauce. Add the flat leaf parsley at the end and stir in.
Take the vegetables off the heat and put in a bowl, set to one side. It is best to get the veg out of the pan, the griddle is a big heavy chunk of metal and will hold the heat for a while, consequently continuing to cook the food in it.
TIP: When you are making sauces, a splash of water in many cases can do wonders. If you take a sauce too far or kept it warm a little too long, reduced a little too much then a dash of water can be your saving grace.
Step 8: Plate Up
Bring your dish together and serve with a glass of white wine, spoon the sauce on and around your perfectly cooked fish.
Add a light garnish of green leaf, peppery rocket works a treat here. Enjoy as a great quick lunch, alfresco if you can :)