Food and cookbooks are my dirty pleasures. Every month, as pay day approaches, I look at my bank account with puzzling perturbation. I consider myself rather careful with money, in fact I carry my cheapness with a sense of pride (#asianmindsets). Then it dawns on me like a dark cloud in the shape of an empty wallet. That dinner was expensive. And so was that one, and the brunch, and the numerous oat milk flat whites you get from the vegan cafe. And all the organic ingredients you buy at the farmer’s market (current obsession: black garlic). Then the hardback cookbooks. All the hardback cookbooks from your Amazon purchase history..
And I’ve got another confession: I rarely follow the recipes from my cookbooks. I honestly just like having them for a leisurely read and I’ll occasionally note down interesting ideas. Yes, sometimes they’re even my bedtime reading. My cookbook collection is ridiculous considering my age. I probably own about the same amount of books as an enthusiastic middle-aged home cook who prepares daily meals for their family. I’ve got 20 years until I reach that stage. I’ll have a whole library of cookbooks. Oh what luxury it is to have a cookbook-dedicated room…
So here’s a sea bream served with rhubarb sauce, poached rhubarb and tarragon mayonnaise. Inspiration from the various cookbook materials I’ve absorbed. Organic ingredients from my farmer’s market.
I just got paid yesterday, and I’ve already bought myself a cookbook and as per ritual, will go to my weekly farmer’s market tomorrow. I’ll need a pay rise before I can start to afford clothes.
2 sea bream fillets, skin side scored
1 egg yolk
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
150ml neutral oil, like rapeseed
Lemon juice, to taste
1 sprig of tarragon, leaves finely chopped
100g rhubarb, cut into 1cm chunks
juice of 1 lemon
100g rhubarb, finely sliced
A generous nob of butter
1 tbsp sugar
tarragon leaves for garnish
Whisk the yolk and the mustard together in a bowl. Then, whilst whisking continously, gradually add the olive oil. With a hand whisk, keep whisking the mixture while gradually adding the olive oil. Finish with a squeeze of lemon, stirring in the chopped tarragon and seasoning it with salt to taste.
**click here to read a more comprehensive guide to how to make mayonnaise. If you decide to use ready made mayonnaise, just stir in some wholegrain mustard and chopped tarragon
Place the juice of one lemon, 20g sugar and 20g water in a pot and bring it to a boil. When the sugar has dissolved, reduce heat to a simmer and add the rhubarb. Cover with a pan and cook until just barely cooked, it should still be firm, this should be a matter of minutes. Then remove from heat and let it cool in the liquid.
Melt butter over low heat, then add the sugar and the rhubarb and simmer rhubarb is completely soft and the mixture looks dry. Blitz in a food processor or with an immersion blender until smooth. If desired, you can press it through a sieve for a smoother effect. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and maybe a bit of the poaching liquor from before.
Score the fish: with a sharp knife, cut small slits through the skin at regular intervals.
Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Dry the scored sea bream fillets with a paper towel and season both sides with salt. When the pan is hot, add the sea bream skin side down (it should sizzle). Press down with a spatula and cook for about 20 seconds and then leave to cook on this side for about 2-3 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish fillet. Then flip over and cook for an extra 30-60 seconds.
Serve with a dollop of rhubarb sauce on one side, sea bream on the other. Then dot poahced rhubarb and mayonnaise on the fish and garnish plate with tarragon leaves and some ground black pepper over the fish and rhubarb sauce.