Bea’s butterflied sea bream with tomato and oregano
Recipe by Tom Haynes. executive chef, Barangaroo House. Image by Nikki To.
This is my absolute favourite dish at Bea and really hits what I want to achieve with the menu. Land, sea, Australian produce and a wood fire pit.
Sea bream is a great fish you can find at the fish markets but if you can’t get sea bream, you can also use pink snapper. My tip: ask the fishmonger to descale the fish and also remove the guts; you can do this at home but it’s a little messy, and who has the time for that?
4 x 400g sea bream, descaled and gutted
Blistered cherry tomato and oregano oil
500g cherry tomatoes
100g shallots, thinly sliced
Small handful picked basil leaves
Small bunch picked oregano leaves
20ml sherry vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
100ml olive oil
Cracked white pepper
To start, butterfly the fish. We use a serrated bread knife, then hold the fish flat to a board and cut through the belly and halfway through the head. To pin bone the bream, lay it skin side down and run your finger down the inside flesh. You will feel some small bones protruding. Using a pair of tweezers, gently pull the bones out of the flesh. If you pull these out at the angle at which they are pointing they will come out very easily. Don’t worry if you break a few; you’re only human and they aren’t too annoying to get out after the fish cooks as they expose themselves a little more once the flesh cooks.
Dab the inside of the fish dry with a paper towel and season with salt and olive oil, then flip the fish and repeat on the skin side.
For the blistered tomatoes you are going to need to fire up that barbecue. Season the cherry tomatoes in a little olive oil, salt and pepper then place them over the grill, ensuring they get a little bit of flame but a nice caramelised skin. Remove from the grill and set aside.
Back in the kitchen, add add olive oil and sliced shallots to a medium-heat pan and sweat down gently until soft. Add the blistered cherry tomato, picked basil leaves, oregano leaves, sherry vinegar, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Place in a 100°C oven in an oven friendly dish for one hour, just so those tomato sugars and flavours mix throughout the oil.
Place the bream skin side down on the grill and cook at a medium high heat for about three minutes, or until nicely charred. I know it’s tempting but try not to move the fish too much while it’s cooking. If you want to check on how much the fish is charred then lift the tail up gently and you will get a good idea. This is a delicate fish so the less you play with it, the better.
Once you can see that the fish is turning a little opaque on the flesh side, gently turn it over and cook for one more minute. Remove from the barbecue and put straight onto a plate so as not waste any “juice” that will leak from the fish. Season with a little lemon juice and sea salt and then cover the fish in the blistered cherry tomato and oregano oil.
Serve this simply with a butter leaf salad, some steamed broccolini or even a side of roasted potato.
Tom Haynes is executive chef, Barangaroo House