When watching the first movie of The Amazing Spiderman franchise, I was intrigued when the character Gwen Stacy invited Peter Parker to her home for dinner and said: “We’re having Branzino.” What is that?! I thought to myself. Later on I would find out it was a whole grilled fish, and it intrigued me, because I have always wanted to try making one for myself, grilled the ‘western’ way.
I finally gave it a go 2 weeks ago, and it was good enough for me to reprise it last weekend just so I can take pictures and blog this down! I have used Seabass for this, but there are a few other fishes you can use, just ask your fish seller at the market. I don’t buy whole fish from supermarkets by the way, unless they are really very fresh, because once you are used to going to the wet market, the supermarket ones simply can’t cut it.Get your fish seller to gut and scale the fish for you, and you should then wash the outside and also inside the belly, and dig out all the remaining gunk that may be in there. You can see there is still some lining (not sure if it’s the breathing thing) and some blood. Clean it till it looks clean. But be careful, there are some spikes on that fish, so you might get pricked when you wash against the grain of the scales.
- 1 Seabass – approximately 600g – 800g – cleaned as per above and pat dry with kitchen towel
- 1 Lime – about the size of a golfball sliced into 6 slices, with the peel removed from 3 of the slices
- 2 tablespoons of herbs chopped finely – basil, rosemary, thyme
- A few sprigs of rosemary, thyme and some basil leaves
- 2 heaped teaspoons sea salt flakes
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Olive oil – about 2 tablespoons
Rub about 1 teaspoon of sea salt and some black pepper into the belly cavity of the fish, covering all the walls. Then do the same with the remaining salt and more black pepper all over the outside of the fish. After that is done, repeat the same with the fine chopped herbs, spreading them all into the cavity and all over the outside.
Stuff the belly with the sprigs of rosemary, thyme and basil leaves.
Place the fish on a plate or wide bowl, stuff some kitchen towels on both sides of the fish and put in fridge, uncovered, for 2 hours. The kitchen towels will soak up any water that might drip down. Remove the fish from the fridge and leave to warm up to room temperature half an hour before you start cooking it.
Brush some olive oil on the grills of a grilling tray, then brush the oil on the intended underside of the fish before resting it on the grill. Brush the top side of the fish with the remaining oil making sure you cover all surfaces and also brush some of it into the belly.
Stuff the 3 slices of lime without peel into the belly and rest them on the herbs, place the remaining 3 slices (with peel intact) on the top side of the fish.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius (fan mode), for 15 mins before placing the grilling tray into the upper third of the oven. Bake for 15 mins. At the last 5 minutes, turn the mode to fan + top grill and bake for another 5 more minutes, making total cooking time 20 minutes.
Lift it up with flat spatulas making sure you don’t break the fish. Serve it with sides. This was the fish I made in the first week.
At serving I also placed a large dollop of my home made herb better and it was a delicious addition and brought the taste up a notch. See how the butter melts into the flesh. Yummy.
- You can also use other herbs if you like, but rosemary should be one of them
- Lemons can also be used instead of lime, so adjust accordingly.
- The reason why I cut out the peel for the lime slices that go into the belly is because they tend to leave a bitter taste otherwise. But left them on the ones used for the outside because they look nicer and the bitter taste does not really transfer at that spot compared to the ones in the belly.
- I made some herbed butter to go along with the fish when I serve it, and the butter is already salty. If you are planning to do the same, then reduce the amount of salt that you rub on the outside of the fish
- I lined the lower tray with foil so that clean up will be much easier. You might like to try that too.
Update 19 Jan 2018:
I have since tried this recipe with Red Snapper and Mullet. Both work well too. Have also tried wrapping the fish in cling wrap while marinating as well which also works. Meanwhile, if you do choose the Mullet fish, there is usually a nice piece of fat in the stomach. Very yummy. But this fish has an “earthy” taste, which some people might not like. For this recipe, my favourite fish to use so far would still be the Seabass!