I spotted this Italian sweet and sour dish in an old Jamie Oliver magazine a couple of weeks ago. It looked simple (it is), uses ingredients that I know work together, and looked like an interesting twist on tradition. If you know Italian food then you know, of course, that the sweet and sour agrodolce is indeed traditional. I looked it up and it is used in a similar way to a French gastrique, adding piquancy to a dish.
That’s just one more thing that I love about cooking: there’s always something new to learn. More than that, every new thing I discover takes me off down other hitherto uncharted avenues.
RECIPE serves 2
1 medium fennel bulb (around 200g after trimming), finely sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
150g very ripe cherry tomatoes
3 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp runny honey
50g fresh pine nuts
2 sea bass fillets, pin-boned
2 tbsp raisins
Heat your oven to 220C/ 200C fan/ gas 7.
Remove the tough core from the fennel, trim off and reserve any fronds and slice it very finely, using a mandolin if you have one.
In a roasting pan. toss the sliced fennel in the oil with a little seasoning. Spread in a single layer in the roasting pan and roast for ten minutes.
Mix the vinegar and honey together, remove the pan from the oven and drizzle the vinegar over the fennel. Add the tomatoes, garlic and pine nuts, toss everything together and return to the oven for a further ten minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven again and switch the grill to high.
Using a very sharp knife, score the skin of the fish 4 or 5 times each, rub a little oil over the skin and season it lightly with sea salt. Toss the raisins into the roasting pan, lay the fish on top – skin side up – and grill for four or five minutes until the fish is just cooked through.
Take the roasting pan to the table and serve from it, alongside some crusty bread and a simple rocket salad.