The Handoff: Sea Bass with Pea and Fava Bean Puree and New Potatoes with Cheshire Cheese
By Allison Goodings
Since Tuesday’s post about cheese and community spirit, I have thought long and hard about what kind of dish I wanted to make that could relay from one of Brianna’s many soup ingredients. With a piece of Cheshire cheese in my fridge, and a basil plant blooming on the windowsill, my menu started to come together. I wanted to make something that showcased many of the English vegetables coming into season, but I also had a hankering to throw a bit of protein into the mix. I set off to my local high street shops to see what else I could find.
There are many places to find local produce in a large urban center – when I lived in Toronto, we frequented our local farmers’ markets on a regular basis during the summer because they were very nearby and easy to get to. While London does have a great network of farmers’ markets and other street markets, they are not always the most convenient places to shop in. Our closest farmers’ market is an amazing place that we love to make special trips to, but it is a multiple-bus journey from our home – navigating in the drizzly weather of London with bags full of produce isn’t always the most appealing way to do our weekly shop. I think it’s important when speaking of local produce, that we also consider supporting local shops in addition to supporting local producers. A mere block away from our flat is a street with a butcher, fishmonger, bakery, greengrocer and independent grocery store. The shops are small and independently owned and we are able to foster relationships with the people who work there, which helps when you want to know where things come from.
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At Tony’s Continental Foods, our wonderful local greengrocer, I found beautiful broad beans still in the pod. Also known as fava beans, these beans are very popular in the UK– less so because of their affiliation with Dr. Hannibal Lecter than because of their sweet taste and brilliant green color. I was reminded of a dish I made during a cooking class a few years ago that paired a puree of broad beans with a piece of crispy fish. I thought these lovely beans could be combined with basil, my Relay ingredient, as well as fresh peas, some mint sprigs, a clove of garlic, a splash of lemon juice and a good drizzle of fragrant olive oil. Next there were some tender new potatoes with their papery skins which practically leapt into my basket, and I decided that they would be fabulous crushed with some green onions, olive oil and the crumbled Cheshire cheese. Further down the road our fishmonger sold me two fillets of wild English sea bass – when pan fried with crispy skin, this fish would be the crowning glory of my dish!
Fillet of Sea Bass with Pea, Fava Bean, Mint & Basil Puree and New Potatoes with Cheshire Cheese
Prep time: 20-30 minutes (less if you get someone to help you shell the beans and peas!)
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 50-60 minutes
Yield: 2 servings
- 1 cup fava (broad) beans, shelled
- 1 cup peas, shelled
- 2 Tablespoons basil leaves
- 2 Tablespoons mint leaves
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/4 cup Cheshire cheese, crumbled (or another aged hard cheese of your preference)
- 3 cups new potatoes, halved (about 1/2 lb)
- 2 green onions, sliced
- 2 sea bass fillets, skin on, pin bones removed
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- Olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- Cook fava beans in salted water until soft (mine took 10 minutes). Drain. Remove white skin from bean and set beans aside. Cook peas in salted water until soft (approximately 10 minutes) and drain. Combine peas, fava beans, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until you have a coarse mixture. Add basil and mint leaves, the juice of half a lemon and ¼ cup of olive oil, and pulse a few more times until mixture comes together. Season with sea salt and black pepper and add more olive oil if desired. Set puree aside.
- Meanwhile, cook new potatoes (leaving skins on) in plenty of salted water until tender. Drain and put back into pan, along with sliced green onions and a few tablespoons of olive oil. Using a potato masher or fork, crush potatoes. You are looking for a coarse mixture of crushed potato, not a smooth mash. Add crumbled cheese, a bit more olive oil if desired and salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.
- Using a very sharp knife, cut a few slashes into the skin side of the fish. Season the fish with salt. Heat a frying pan with a tablespoon of oil for a few minutes until very hot, and place the fish skin-side down in the pan. You want to cook the fish until the skin is crispy and golden brown, which will take only 3-4 minutes. Turn the fish over and cook another minute or two until the thickest part of the fish is white and opaque. Turn off burner and squeeze half a lemon over the fish to finish.
- To serve, I like to fill a small bowl or ramekin with the potato mixture, and invert the dish on the plate so you have a perfect portion of potato. Spoon a large dollop of puree beside the potatoes, and place the crispy fish, skin side up, on top of the potatoes. If you have an extra sprig of mint or basil, that would finish the dish off quite nicely!
Allison Goodings lives in London, England, and is the recipe writer for the Archer, a local community newspaper in East Finchley. When not feeding her friends and family, planning what to cook for her next meal, selling cheese at a local market or daydreaming about asparagus, she works for the Canadian High Commission.