Serving a whole fish for Christmas is a perfectly sensible way to create a wow effect with a lighter and fresher option. This dish in particular, with the preserved lemons and olives, brings a whole new set of flavours to the table. It goes well with slaw and sprouts.
1 large whole sea bass (1.5-2kg, net weight), scaled and gutted
4 medium waxy potatoes (600g), cut into 2mm thick slices
7 plum tomatoes, cut into 5mm slices
Salt and black pepper
1 large preserved lemon, flesh removed, skin roughly chopped
200g green and black olives, pitted
Lemon wedges, to serve
For the chermoula:
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 bunch coriander, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 pinch dried chilli flakes
90ml olive oil
2 lemons, juiced
1 tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Combine the chermoula ingredients in a bowl. Use a sharp knife to score the fish lightly with three or four cuts on an angle on each side. Rub chermoula all over the fish, inside and out, and leave to marinade in the fridge for one to three hours.
- Drop the potatoes into a medium pan of boiling water and blanch for three to four minutes, to soften. Drain, refresh and shake to dry.
- Take an oven tray large enough to accommodate the whole fish and brush with olive oil. Arrange the potato and tomato slices, slightly overlapping, over the base of the tray. Drizzle lightly with oil and season.
- Mix together the preserved lemon and olives. Lay the fish on top of its potato and tomato bed, then stuff with the olives and lemon. Allow any excess to tumble out of the cavity.
- Roast for 45-55 minutes - the roasting time may vary dramatically according to the thickness of the fish, so start checking after 30 minutes. Pierce the fish down to its spine at its thickest part with a little knife - the flesh should be totally white.
- Once done, bring the tin directly to the table. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with lemon wedges.