"Heritage tomatoes are increasingly popular and more available in recent years. They are old varieties, grown with seed in a traditional manner, with open pollination and no hybridisation. The range is seemingly endless and diverse, and you get an interesting mix of colours, textures, acidity and sweetness. This simple, easy-to-make dish is a delight, with summer flavours of the Mediterranean."
1kg heritage tomatoes
18 salted anchovies, chopped
50g capers in brine, drained
150ml lemon dressing (see below)
2 x 800g fillets of wild sea bass, skin on, scaled and pin-boneda little sunflower oil
24 basil leaves
Salt and pepper
For the lemon dressing (makes 500ml)
2 garlic cloves
A few tarragon sprigs
80ml Chardonnay vinegar, or good white wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
300ml extra virgin olive oil
100ml sunflower oilsalt and pepper
Using a paring knife, remove the core from each tomato, quarter them, then cut each quarter in half. If you have a few cherry tomatoes in the mix, just halve them. Place in a large bowl. Add the anchovies, capers and lemon dressing. Season the tomatoes, bearing in mind that the anchovies are salty, so you will need less salt than usual.
Place a fillet of sea bass skin-side down on a chopping board and, using a sharp knife, remove any belly still attached and the last 5cm of the thin tail end of the fillet. Cut each fillet into 3 even portions. Turn them over so the skin is facing you. Cut 4–5 score marks into the skin across each portion, no more than 5mm (¼in) deep, being careful not to score too deeply into the flesh. The easiest way to achieve this is to hold the top and bottom of the portion between your fingers and thumb and squeeze the fillet gently so the skin arches upwards before making the cuts. Scoring the skin helps the fish to cook through evenly, and it will also curl up less in the pan while frying.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan with a little sunflower oil over a medium–high heat. Season the sea bass portions and fry the fish, skin-side down. When the fillets hit the pan, although you have scored them, the skin will contract and may still curl up a little. Using a palette knife, press down gently on the fillets, keeping them flat so the skin crisps evenly. Once the skin of the fish is golden and crispy (this should take 2–3 minutes), turn each fillet over and reduce the heat to its lowest for 1 minute, then switch it off. Allow the fillets to finish cooking gently in the residual heat of the pan.
Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan over a medium heat. Drop in the tomato mixture and warm it through, stirring gently. This should be a quick process, as you don’t want the tomatoes to break down too much. Once the tomatoes have warmed through and are releasing their juices, tear up the basil leaves, bruising them as you go so they release their flavour. Fold the basil through the tomatoes. Have a taste and adjust the seasoning if required.
Spoon the tomatoes into 6 warmed bowls, place the fish on top and serve.
Albariño, Pazo Señorans, Rías Biaxas. Albariño is definitely a seafood lover’s wine. It has a delicate saltiness about it and good lemony acidity, appealing flavours that pair well with fish. It should be served cold, but, if left in the glass, as it increases in temperature its flavours change from citrus and minerally to the richer notes of apple, pear and even stone fruits such as peaches and apricots.
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