Sea bream baked with summer lentils and brown shrimp butter sauce

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I don’t cook fish much, but I’m trying to keep myself out of restaurants for entirely boring financial reasons, so when I had a hankering for a fancy dinner of a maritime ilk the other day, it was making my own or nothing. But hey, me and my housemate ate this feast, which would easily have had a £17 price-tag if served to you under the light of exposed bulbs by some beardy type in a butchers apron and T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up, for a fraction of the price (£4 that fish!) with a nice bottle of wine, wearing lounge clothes. And we only had to change rooms to pass out on the sofa afterwards. You don’t get that in Soho. Well, mostly.

The fishmongers near where I live, F.C. Soper in Nunhead, since you ask, always has a great selection, for a reasonable price, so I went bananas and got a pot of brown shrimp as well as a couple of lovely fillets of sea bream. Not only because they made the dish seem all ~restaurantey, but because since I tried them served similarly, swimming in butter and herbs, I can’t get enough of the salty, slightly sour edge they offer the polite taste of a meaty white fish. In terms of what they bring to the table, I think they’re like capers with more bite, or crispy bits of bacon with more subtlety.

Lentils are a great addition to a dish you want to beef out without just plonking a few potatoes on the side, and they don’t have to be wintery. Because this dish uses cooked lentils (I just had tinned, but you could use pre-boiled or leftover from another dish), the tomatoes and spinach don’t get long enough in the oven to really cook down so, the finished thing retains a nice freshness.

This would be great if you’ve got friends over, as you basically just wang it in the oven and then fry your shrimps, so the whole thing can be started and on the table within half an hour.

Ingredients (serves 2)

2 fillets of sea bream (or any other meaty white fish – cod, monk fish, sea bass would all do fine)

1 tin of cooked puy or green  lentils (or equivalent amount – 400g, I beleve, of cooked lentils)

8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved

a big handful of spinach, chopped

Salt/pepper/olive oil

A good splash of white wine

For the sauce…

150g brown shrimp

50g salted butter

A good splash of white wine

A small handful of dill, finely chopped

Half a lemon




Throw yer lentils, tomatoes and spinach in a lidded casserole dish with a splash of wine, a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch-worth of salt and pepper. Season the fish fillets and lay on top. Stick on the lid and place in a pre-heated oven, 180C, for 20mins.

Take it out of the oven, check the fish is just opaque – it should have steamed through but still be soft – and set aside with the lid on.

Heat the butter in a thick-bottomed frying pan until it begins to bubble. Throw in the shrimps and fry for a minute or two. Add the white wine – about half a glass worth and turn down the heat so it bubbles gently into a saucy consistency. Should take about 3mins. It’ll stay thin-ish, but this is good for drizzling.

Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir in with the chopped dill. Season with salt and pepper if you think it needs it.

Carefully remove the fish fillets from the casserole dish and put on a side plate for a min. Distribute the lentils between two plates (there’ll prob be enough lentils for leftovers tbh) and then lay the fish on top all top all fancy.

Spoon the shrimps along with a good drizzle over butter sauce over each and BOOM, your mates will think you’re a total pro.


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