H E R B C R U S T E D H A L I B U T
W I T H F E N N E L
A N D O R A N G E S A L A D
Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus 4 hours
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Season: Avoid Pacific Halibut during its
spawning season, between November and January
6 x 2.5 cm thick halibut fillets, about 140 g each
3 large sprigs thyme
3 sprigs fresh parsley
1 unwaxed and/or organic orange
1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil, plus an additional
200 ml extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 round shallots, or 1 banana shallot
1 tblsp white wine or cider vinegar
2 blood oranges, or 2 unwaxed oranges
180 g (drained weight) pitted green olives
1 generous tsp runny honey
2 fennel bulbs
200 g watercress
40 g fresh tarragon
Using damp kitchen paper, blot the fish clean with a few swift strokes. Wash the sprigs of thyme and parsley. Remove the leaves and roughly chop to lightly bruise and release their flavour. Transfer to a glass or ceramic bowl large enough to accommodate the fish comfortably. Wash the orange and grate the zest. Add to the bowl, along with 1 tblsp of the olive oil and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Cover and marinate the fish in the refrigerator — any amount of marinating will be beneficial, but at least 4 hours is ideal.
Peel and finely dice the shallots and place in a medium-sized bowl with the vinegar and a pinch of salt. Using a sharp knife remove the skin of the blood oranges and cut into segments or slices. Roughly chop the olives and gently fold them into the shallot-vinegar mixture, along with the orange segments. Drizzle over the honey and season well with black pepper. Remove any bruised outer leaves from the fennel and wash thoroughly under cold running water. Trim the top, saving any fennel fronds, and cit the bulb into quarters. Slice the fennel into thin slivers through the core.
Don't worry if some of the edges of your quarters fall apart. Add to the bowl and drizzle over 180 ml olive oil to coat. Wash and trim the watercress, tarragon and any fennel fronds, and dry thoroughly with kitchen paper. Keep this separate from the fennel orange salad until ready to serve.
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / gas 4.
Remove the fish from the refrigerator. Heat a large oven-roof sauté pan over high heat for a minute or two. Drizzle the remaining 20 ml olive oil onto the skin side of each fillet and place the oil-side down in the pan. Cook 3-4 minutes or until the skin is nicely browned. Carefully, flip the fish over (always flipping away from you so you avoid splashing hot oil on you) and continue cooking for another 7-10 minutes in the pre-heated oven.
To serve, divide the watercress and herbs among the plates. Top with sautéed halibut, preferably skin-side up, and spoon on a generous portion of the orange salad, either on the top or tumbling off the fish to the side.
Cook's note: When pan-frying fish the first side you put into the preheated pan should be the side of the fish you serve to your guests. This is because the first side cooked will be going into a clean pan thus will have a cleaner caramelised crust.