All the way from Venice this is a dish I recreated after having a wonderfully enjoyable meal that I had to try to master. Fortunately this version delivers on all levels and makes for an impressive dinner date meal.
4 sea bass fillets, skin on
275g plum and cherry tomatoes, mixed colours if available
150g mixed pitted olives
1 yellow pepper
1 clove of garlic, finely sliced
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
2 lemon wedges
1 heaped tbsp large capers
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
Small handful basil leaves, torn
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 220°c.
Cut the ends off the aubergine then slice lengthways into long strips 1cm thick. Lay the slices on their side and slice again into long batons. Place the aubergine batons into a colander and sprinkle with a Tsp of salt, toss to coat the aubergines well and then leave the colander to sit over a bowl for 30 minutes. Pat the aubergine dry.
Place the pepper in a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and season. Roast for 20-25 minutes before removing from the oven and placing in a bowl, cover the bowl with clingfilm and allow the pepper to sweat for a few minutes. Carefully remove the skin and seeds and slice the flesh into long strips. Turn the oven down to 150°c.
Heat a casserole dish over a high heat and add a tbsp of olive oil. Add the aubergine and fry for 4-5 minutes until they take on some colour and soften then add two thirds of the tomatoes (whole), season well with salt and pepper and fry for 3-4 minutes more. Then add the sliced pepper along with the garlic, passata half the olives (whole), the sherry vinegar and 100ml water. Turn off the heat and make a cartouche by folding a square of greaseproof paper in half and then into a triangle. Cut the triangle so that is slightly larger than the width of your pan. Unfold the cartouche, crumple and dampen lightly with water. Place this over the caponata mixture and bake in the oven for 30 minutes to marry all of the flavours.
After 30 minutes remove from the oven and lift the cartouche, stir through the parsley and an extra 100ml of water if it’s needed (if the pan is running dry). Season the flesh side of the sea bass fillets with salt and pepper and place them skin side down into the pan being careful to not let them overlap each other too much. Add the lemon wedges to the pan and replace the cartouche. Return the pan to the oven for a further 15 minutes to cook the fish.
Meanwhile bring a shallow frying pan to temperature over a medium heat, add a tbsp of olive oil. Roughly chop the remaining tomatoes and olives into random sizes but keep them relatively large and miss matched. Add them to the pan along with the chilli flakes, capers, basil and a touch of salt and pepper. Cook down gently for 10 minutes then mix well and keep warm.
To serve the dish carefully lift the fish out of the casserole using a fish slice. Lay them flesh side down on a serving board then peel away the skin (this will happen easily if the fish is cooked). Spoon the caponata mixture from the casserole dish onto the centre of a serving plate. Squeeze the juice from the lemon wedges over the fish and then place 2 fillets on top of the caponata. Finish by dressing with the tomatoes and olive mixture from the frying pan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.