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Region: Liguria

Serves 2

Shelf life 2 days from delivery (keep refrigerated)

Moderately tricky

Takes around 40 minutes

Click for recipe

One of the most lauded dishes in fine Italian restaurants armoury, it is the salty armour that presents a problem: it is not very easy, while cooking the fish, to check if it is done.

There are three ways around this:

  1. The commonest: overcook the fish, that way you are sure it is done (and that way, there is no point baking it in salt – the whole point is to cook the fish more perfectly than it could otherwise be).
  2. The most flexible: use a thermometer probe (leave a little spot unencrusted to insert it, free from salt, just behind the head of the fish) – bake it to an internal temperature of 38-40C, then rest it until it reaches an internal temperature of 50-55C. Do this if ever you buy your own fish and are not sure of the cooking time.
  3. The easiest: practice 1,000 times, until for a given oven temperature, size of fish, and thickness of salt you just know how long to leave it in. We have done this for you – for this fish (sea bream, 750g when caught & 600g when gutted), this amount of salt and this oven temperature, it will take 14 minutes, plus 5 minutes to rest.

If the fish is super-fresh (ours is), and if it is correctly cooked (yours will be), salt-baking is miraculous: the salty sarcophagus protects the fish from the heat of the oven, and allows the flesh within to cook very evenly to just the right temperature – cooked but unimaginably moist and juicy – and be perfectly seasoned the way through. Note to the wise: do not eat the salt, or the skin (both will be very, very salty).

ENJOY! This is one of the best ways to serve fish, and you should celebrate it with a falanghina or something also elegant and delicious.