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How to Cook Sea Bream

A French style recipe for dourade/black/sea bream..

Sea Bream is an excellent fish to cook, underated in the UK but slowly gaining in popularity due, I am sure in no small part to its cost in comparisson to sea bass. Dourade, black bream, sea bream, call it what you will the French in particular love it and it’s a staple on any self respecting brasserie menu. Now I am writing about a French style preperation but this fish is equally brilliant given Asian flavours and cooking methods, I have steamed them whole, braised the fillets in curry and soups, wok fried them and served them as ceviche and they have always responded wonderfully well.

This is a simple but classic way of cooking bream, poached over sliced potatoes with fennel, olives, confit lemon and a saffron infused fish stock. It’s a simplified bouillabaise really in as much as the potatoes are cooked in the broth which is flavoured with all of the ingredients of a classic Marseille bouillabaise.

Sea Bream with Lemon, Olives and Fennel

The stock is the key to success here, the more flavour you extract the better the end product. You can use fish stock cubes but some fish scraps and/or skins/bones would be so much better. Don’t measure anything, go by taste. Take a pan, heat some olive oil and saute a chopped onion with a clove or two of garlic. Add some sliced fennel, a little chilli, a couple of bay leaves, some fennel seeds and when all has softened a little tomato puree. Throw in a chopped fresh tomato and then add some washed fresh fish ends (not oily fish i.e mackerel, salmon) along with a little orange peel. After five or six minutes add a splash of anise if you’ve got some, if not use white wine and cook until reduced. Cover the fish and vegetables with water.

Saffron is a key ingredient here, not cheap but a little goes a long way. Soak a few strands in warm water about an hour before you start cooking to allow the flavours to infuse. Add this to the stock, be careful because it can easily overpower the other ingredients. Bring to the boil and simmer for twenty minutes and then pass through a fine sieve. Now I cook sliced potatoes and sliced fennel in this stock for extra flavour, as the potatoes and fennel cooks the stock reduces and helps make the finished sauce so all I need to do is whisk in a few lumps of cold butter at the end to thicken it.

Take a pan and arrange the par cooked potato and fennel slices in the middle, place your fish on top and half fill with the stock, cover the fish with tin foil or butter paper and bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer until the fish is just cooked, remove from the pan and check that the potatoes are fully cooked. Remove from the pan and reduce the stock by half, add the cold butter until the stock has thickened. Add a few olives and warm through.
Place the potatoes and fennel in a bowl, top with the fish and pour the sauce around.

12 Comments

  1. Rod says:

    That looks superb !

    December 8, 2010 @ 7:47 pm

  2. miles says:

    Rod,
    Thanks mate, it’s a lovely fish.

    Miles

    December 8, 2010 @ 11:10 pm

  3. Susannah says:

    Having been a landlocked Texan I have very little background in preparing any other fish than fresh water trout and salmon. But now that I live in France and there is a fish monger in our village I am working to enlarge my fish menu. This morning I purchased Dorade Grise from our monger. About an hour before dinner time I googled and lighted here first thing. After reading the recipe I knew I needn’t search further.

    We have just finished dinner and I wanted to let you know that this is a recipe I will be serving to my husband’s parents the next time they visit. It is simple to prep, easy to cook, and very appealling when served. I think a beginner cook could succeed with this recipe without any anxiety and enjoy the praise that will come after the meal. Prep and cook time took about a 1/2 hour to prepare, and clean up was a breeze!

    Thank you for posting this recipe.

    October 13, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

  4. miles says:

    Susannah,
    Welcome to the site and thank you for such a lovely comment. I am delighted that you found the recipe useful and easy to manage. I try to steer clear of exact recipes as I would always encourage others to cook the way they feel. I do have more fish recipes on here, try the search bar at the top but if you do need any advice please do not hesitate to ask.
    Thanks again Susannah and happy cooking.
    Kind regards
    Miles

    October 13, 2011 @ 11:37 pm

  5. Sam says:

    Looks great, must try it.

    Personally I think bream is better than bass. Unfortunately the secret is out and the price is catching up!

    October 14, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

  6. miles says:

    SAm,
    That’s a good point. Most sea bass is farmed now so the bream is a good option but like most fish now it’s a price issue.

    Miles

    October 15, 2011 @ 11:29 am

  7. veronica says:

    Well there you go, Miles.

    My husband came back from the weekly shop with SEA BREAM, which I’d never heard of and didn’t know how to cook.
    And instead of going to BBC/Food , I looked to YOU first this time . Will try this. It looks great .

    Message to the world ; Look no further , we sit at the feet of the master.

    January 13, 2012 @ 7:56 am

  8. miles says:

    Veronica,
    That’s great! Well done your husband! Thank you for those kind words, sea bream is beautiful-Asian or Mediterranean style if you please!

    Miles

    January 13, 2012 @ 9:44 am

  9. veronica says:

    Well, I’m severely allergic to chinese so was planning to do the above one. I can eat Indian though .

    Yes my husband does the food shopping. Imagine the conversation in my kitchen this week when he took sea bream out of the shopping bag; sea bream that I’d never heard of and had no idea how to cook . although..maybe best NOT to imagine .

    I love fennel though and will cook the fish as above ty . usually cook fennel mashed with carrots and orange zest and juice .

    January 13, 2012 @ 10:08 am

  10. miles says:

    Veronica,
    Well you can’t go wrong with fennel and orange, especially with bream. Hope it worked out ok.

    Miles

    January 13, 2012 @ 6:59 pm

  11. veronica says:

    The sea bream was delicious . TY

    Quite a meaty fish and perhaps we could have had only one between us rather the two . But it made a good dinner to come into after an hour’s aqua aerobics.

    January 16, 2012 @ 8:19 pm

  12. miles says:

    Veronica,
    Pleased to hear it. It is a chunky fish alright but you deserved it after all of that exercise :)

    January 16, 2012 @ 9:49 pm

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