Food Glorious Food – May 2015
by Robert Hanson
This month we give you a splendid fish supper for two, and a romantic story to go with it. Best enjoyed on a balmy night in Naples, or failing that an English summer’s eve.
I’m not sure quite how much the name of a dish affects our enjoyment of it, but I very much enjoy this dish and what a splendid name it has; the Italian Orata all’ Acqua Pazza, or Sea Bream in Crazy Water!
My first taste of sea bream was on the first night of my honeymoon just South of Naples. We arrived late at the only restaurant within walking distance of our hotel only to find it closed, but with the owner sitting outside enjoying a late glass of wine. As only an Italian could, he immediately saw we were both hungry and in love. He took pity on us and said he would open his kitchen and do his best to produce something memorable. And so it proved. We understood that he had fish, pesce, but orata was a mystery. Il padrone, on seeing my blank look tried somewhat hesitatingly yet enthusiastically to find the English word for this particular fish. Gold fish? I’ve always been fairly good at trying new dishes, but there are limits and goldfish is one of them, especially when it occurred to me that he was probably about to raid his children’s aquarium. However, when he showed us the fish before cooking them, though we didn’t discover what they were, we did discover what they weren’t.
Sea Bream in Crazy Water
- 1 whole sea bream about 450g, gutted and cleaned
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
- Half a red chilli, seeded, pith removed, chopped 200g of cherry tomatoes (perhaps of different colours)
- 2 tablespoons of white wine
- A handful of capers
- Flat leafed parsley, chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
- In a frying pan large enough to take the fish comfortably, (and with a lid), heat half the oil. Once it’s sizzling put in the fish and cook until it’s starting to colour, 4-5 minutes. Turn it over and scatter in the garlic. Cook for one minute before adding the chilli, tomatoes and wine. Let the wine bubble for one minute before adding 50ml of water. Season generously (for me this means lots of pepper and rather less salt.)
- Put the lid on, turn up the heat and simmer it all for a quarter of an hour.
- Take the fish out and put it in a serving dish to keep warm. Add the capers and parsley to the juices in the pan and boil hard for a minute before serving either poured over the fish (with a little more olive oil) or separately.