Last year I went to see the play Twelve Angry Men – a brilliant West End production with a stunning cast including Robert Vaughan (he of the Man From Uncle and Hustler fame) and Martin Shaw (Judge Deed, George Gently etc) – it was just as good as the original 1957 film which is saying something as that is now accepted as a classic, with Henry Fonda in the lead. It’s a marvellous study of the causes of prejudice and of leadership through the building of consensus in a disparate group of men – a jury struggling to reach a verdict on what seems initially to be an open and shut case.
It’s an immensely powerful play and, leaving the theatre stunned and ravenous, we found ourselves in one of the few restaurants still open, ordering Chinese food without much attention. What came, maple miso-glazed sprouts with sea bass and jasmine rice, did not disappoint, so much so that I attempted to recreate it later. This post describes the result.
Since we’re celebrating Chinese New Year I am serving the fish whole, including the head and tail and the skin. It’s more traditional in China to steam the fish, and serve it with shallots and shitake mushrooms, but the important thing is the ‘wholeness’ of the fish which symbolises both abundance and continuity. Serve the fish pointed towards the guest of honour and reserve the head for this person. Don’t eat the whole lot – leaving a little doesn’t just demonstrate self-restraint, it also symbolises sufficiency – always having enough…..
However… if it were a different month I might be tempted for ease to simply serve fillets. If the fillets are small you can sandwich them together. Marinate them in a marinade of olive oil and rosato vermouth – about four times oil to vermouth – and some Sichuan and pink peppers and smoked salt, and then put the whole lot into a puffed-up sealed envelope of foil and roast in the oven for about twenty minutes, leaving it to rest for a couple of minutes before serving.
Alternatively, you can use stone bass instead of sea bass. Stone bass is a farmed fish which grows bigger than a sea bass so that the fillets are thicker, juicier and more luxurious. You can get stone bass from The Fish Society.
Recipe for Twelve Angry Men Sea Bass
- 450g/1 lb sea bass cleaned and scaled by your fishmonger, or, more conveniently, four sea bass fillets
- 25g/1 oz (a packet) flat-leaved coriander – or if you don’t like coriander, parsley, chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic (crushed with a little smoked salt)
- 1 small lemon – reserve the zest for the rice, cut in half and use just one half (save the other for the rice). Cut that half into small wedges.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 teasp Sichuan flower pepper (from Peppermongers), ground in a pestle and mortar – and maybe some pink peppercorns for added colour
- 80 ml/⅓ cup rosato vermouth (pink martini)
- Smoked salt
- Preheat the oven to 220°C – use the top right oven of your aga if you have one
- To the crushed garlic and salt add the olive oil and the pepper and rub over the fish
- Stuff the fish with the lemon wedges and the parsley, or if you are using fillets sandwich them together with the stuffing between
- Pour over the vermouth
- Bake in the oven, uncovered, for about 20 minutes