A fillet of fish in a packet bears no resemblance to the animal it used to be. So I feel really strongly that if children are going to eat fish or meat they should find out where it came from. I’d always assumed that cooking a whole fish would be technical and awkward, but actually if you buy it gutted and descaled then all you have to do is stuff it with lemon and herbs, shake over some salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and bake it until flaky . My kids love the spectacle of peeling the cooked skin off and using a fork to serve themselves. They really enjoy the texture and flavour of the fish and then seeing and touching the bones, head and eyes left at the end. They don’t hold back, so having wipes nearby is a must!
My kids are young so I just get them to do little tasks when I am cooking. In this case they chopped the olives in half with a blunt knife (next time it will be a proper knife!) and stuffed the fish (seabass) with the herbs and lemon slices. The fish is baked on top of sliced potatoes, onions, the olives and sundried tomatoes, which become sweet and chard, along with the subtle flavour of the lemon juice. Other vegetables such as sweet potato, broccoli, pepper, tomatoes and asparagus would also work well. Sainsbury’s do a pack of ‘British sea vegetables’ which you can fry in minutes, and make a great accompaniment (not according to the kids though, who stuck to their peas!)
The whole dish is fun to eat as you can put it in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves.
Baked Whole Fish With Tasty Roast Veg (serves 2-4 depending on appetite)
2 large potatoes sliced
1 onion, sliced
12 olives, chopped in half
6 sundried tomatoes, chopped small
2 whole sea bass or other similar sized whole fish, descaled and gutted
Handful of parsley
2 lemons, sliced
Olive oil (or any other cooking oil)
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.
Spread the sliced potatoes, onion, olives and sundried tomatoes out on a baking tray or large casserole dish to make a sort of bed for the fish, and pour over some oil. Lay on the descaled and gutted whole fish and stuff them with the parsley and lemon slices (don’t worry if they come out the side a bit). Finally drizzle the fish with a little oil and shake over some salt and pepper.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the fish is flaky and cooked, taking out the fish briefly to turn over the veg halfway through cooking. Let everyone serve themselves and the kids explore the fish as much as they like. Watch this video from 37 seconds in for how to eat your cooked fish – it is simpler than you think!