Quick sea bass with torn basil and smoked salt

Super quick sea bass

Gavin Wren Fish & Shellfish, Recipes

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about food bloggers (and I’m probably guilty of it too), it’s that we have a predilection for over stating how easy our recipes are. It’s like a USP, which has to be professed at all costs to help draw your reading eyes and cooking hands into the world of our blogs.

The problem is that it’s not always true. Sometimes the ‘easy’ recipes are only easy if compared to making a salmon ballotine served with lemon sabayon whilst translating Dostoevsky into Urdu. So it’s all relative. As a blogger, once you’ve created a recipe, developed the flavour from a vision of it in your head, then made that recipe once, twice, thrice or more, it can seem easy to make, because it’s hard wired into you. So in defence of myself, it can be tricky to step away from my own head, take a few paces back and look again, to really consider the question “Is this easy?” objectively.

Quick sea bass with torn basil and smoked salt

Today I’m keen to dispel that, because I’ve got a recipe that genuinely is very, very easy. I’ve cooked it countless times and each time, I’ve thought it’s damn quick. You only need to look at the ingredient list and realise there’s not much involved in making this.

For once, I’m going to stress the importance of good ingredients. Good quality, fresh fish. Fresh basil and some smoked salt. Because there’s a relationship between the amount of ingredients in a recipe and how much difference their quality makes to the success of the dish. When you only have a couple of ingredients on the plate, they need to be really good quality to stand out and make it work, as there’s nothing else to hide behind, no sauces, no heavy spices, no long cooking processes.

When you have everything in place, this extraordinarily simple preparation transforms a simple portion of sea bass from a nice piece of fish into a “Wow! Why does that taste so amazing” piece of fish. It’s cooked in the same way as my crispy skin salmon, which is a great way to cook fish that gives you restaurant style results every time, not to mention turns you into a crispy-fish-skin addict.

Quick sea bass with torn basil and smoked salt

There’s a few pre-requisites to create good, crispy skinned fish. Some of these are general fish cooking advice, others are specific to achieving a crispy skin.

Gavin’s top six crispy skin fish tips!

  • Take your fish out of the fridge in well in advance of cooking it. You want your fish to be at room temperature when it goes in the pan.
  • Dry your fish with some kitchen towel before cooking it. This reduces the potentially dangerous spitting and crackling which occurs when water comes into contact with hot oil.
  • Thoroughly preheat your pan over a medium heat. Make sure it’s been on there a while and is really up to temperature. A minute isn’t enough and it needs to be hot when the fish goes in.
  • Hold your fish flat when you place it, skin side down, in the pan. This stops the curling up that occurs when fish skin shrinks upon contact with heat.
  • DO NOT MOVE IT. This is the worst thing you can do. If you try and move the fish before the skin has crisped up, you might end up with a mess. You need to leave it until you are ready to turn, then GENTLY ease it from the pan with a spatula, when it’s ready to turn.
  • Do 70% of the cooking on the skin side. You only turn it to finish off the cooking, the majority should have been done on the skin side. With fish such as salmon, you can see the cooking rate through the colour change at the side of the fillet.

Onwards with the superlatives and what must be one of the simplest and quickest sea bass recipes in the world. I’ll leave it up to you to decide how tasty this sea bass recipe is, so if you like it let me know by either rating and commenting below or leaving a comment on social media.

Quick sea bass with torn basil and smoked salt

Super quick sea bass


Serves 2

Uses 1 pan

PDF recipe card to download or print


2 sea bass fillets, skin on, pin boned and at room temperature.
Small handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
Smoked salt
Olive oil


Heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Add a little drizzle of olive oil to lightly coat the pan.

Pat the sea bass fillets dry with some kitchen towel. Place them skin side down in the pan and hold them flat with your hand or a spatula for 15 seconds. This stops them curling up. Now leave the fish to cook for 5 minutes and don’t try to move them.

After 5 minutes, gently ease the fillets away from the pan with a spatula and turn them over. Cook the other side for 3 minutes.

Place the fillets on plates, then drizzle with a little more olive oil, sprinkle liberally with the salt and finally, scatter with torn basil.

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