Last year I went to see the play Twelve Angry Men – a brilliant West End production with a stunning cast including Robert Vaughan (he of the Man From Uncle and Hustler fame) and Martin Shaw (Judge Deed, George Gently etc) – it was just as good as the original 1957 film which is saying something as that is now accepted as a classic, with Henry Fonda in the lead. It’s a marvellous study of the causes of prejudice; and also of leadership through the building of consensus in a disparate group of men – in this case a jury struggling to reach a verdict on what seems initially to be an open and shut case.
It’s an immensely powerful play and, leaving the theatre stunned and ravenous (as you are often after an emotional roller coaster), we found ourselves in one of the few restaurants still open, ordering Chinese food without much attention. What came, maple miso-glazed sprouts with sea bass and jasmine rice, did not disappoint, so much so that I have attempted to recreate it now. So this is what the restaurant did with the sea bass.
Since we’re celebrating Chinese New Year I should be serving the fish whole, including the head and tail and the skin. It’s more traditional in China to steam the fish, and serve it with shallots and shitake mushrooms, but the important thing is the ‘wholeness’ of the fish which symbolises both abundance and continuity. You should serve the fish pointed towards the guest of honour and reserve the head for this, fortunate, person. Don’t eat the whole lot – leaving a little doesn’t just demonstrate self-restraint, it also symbolises sufficiency – always having enough…..
However… if it were a different month I might be tempted for ease to simply serve fillets. For extra flavour and texture, marinate them in a marinade of olive oil and rosato vermouth – about four times oil to vermouth – and some Sichuan and pink peppers and smoked salt, and then put the whole lot into a puffed-up sealed envelope of foil and roast in the oven for about fifteen minutes, leaving it to rest for a couple of minutes before serving.
Alternatively, you can use stone bass instead of sea bass. Stone bass is a farmed fish which grows bigger than a sea bass so that the fillets are thicker (so they will take a bit longer), juicier and more luxurious. You can get stone bass from The Fish Society.
These are either very good, as I had them, with jasmine rice and asian-style Brussels sprouts; or, equally as good with a lettuce and avocado salad.
Recipe for Twelve Angry Men Sea Bass fillets
- 4 sea bass fillets – about 420g/15 oz
- 25g/1 oz (a packet) flat-leaved coriander – or if you don’t like coriander, parsley, chopped.
- 4 cloves of garlic (crushed with a little smoked salt)
- 1 small lemon – reserve the zest for the jasmine rice, cut in half and use just one half (save the other half for the rice). Cut that half into small wedges.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 teasp Sichuan flower pepper (from Peppermongers), ground in a pestle and mortar – and maybe some pink peppercorns for added colour (these aren’t much good for much else – go to this post to find out why).
- 80 ml/⅓ cup rosato vermouth (pink martini)
- smoked salt
- Preheat the oven to 210°C – use the top right oven of your Aga if you have one.
- To the crushed garlic and salt add the olive oil and the pepper and rub over the fish
- Put the fish onto an oiled piece of foil, long enough to wrap over the top, and cover the fish with the lemon wedges and the coriander or parsley. If you’ve marinated them, add the marinade.
- Pour over the vermouth
- Bake in the oven, wrapped in the foil, for about 10 minutes, then unwrap them, and cook unwrapped to give them some colour, for about another five minutes.