Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals #24: Sea Bass & Crispy Pancetta
This is our 24th cooking/blogging experiment from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals. We didn’t think our oven would be repaired in time for this one, so I flipped through all the remaining recipes in the book looking for the ones that didn’t need an oven. There aren’t many! We chose “Sea Bass & Crispy Pancetta, Sweet Potato Mash, Asian Greens, 1-Minute Berry Ice Cream, and Sparkling Lemon Ginger Drink.” (As it turns out, the repair guy fixed the oven a few hours before dinner, but we were already committed to this recipe.) We’d previously watched this episode, and we re-watched a bit of it online to refresh our memories. The Snook was on chef duty for this one, and he managed it in a very fast 30:56!
Substitutions: Well, it ain’t sea bass. European sea bass just isn’t available here. We turned to the fish markets for advice on a suitable substitute. They recommend Murray cod, which upon further googling appears to be critically endangered. NOPE! We instead went with some beautiful John Dory fillets. Instead of asparagus, we used some pak choy we got in last week’s veggie box. Other than that, everything else was as written in the recipe.
Quick verdict: In many ways, this is the prototypical “30 Minute Meal” recipe. We actually had to check to make sure we hadn’t made it already! It feels very, very familiar. It’s got all Jamie’s favourite ingredients (lemon, fennel seeds, chilli, sesame oil, etc); the technique of microwaving the veg for the mash; piling up everything on a tray; the random extra bits he has you make to use up time, like the drink; and the thrown-together dessert at the end. However, even though this one didn’t feel very exciting, it was certainly a pretty good meal. I found the mash a little sweet at first (some extra salt helped with that), but the Asian greens were perfect. The fish was okay, maybe a little boring. (Our skin didn’t get crispy enough and stuck to the pan a bit.) The lemon drink was very good, but seriously, who bothers with things like that? And the dessert was nice, if a bit expected. Overall I gave this one an 8; the Snook gave it an 8.5. Nothing really wrong with it, but nothing really amazing either. And he managed it in 30:56! Can’t argue with that.
Read on for a photo essay of the preparation.Pre-start prep: We got out all the necessary ingredients, tools, and cooking vessels. The kitchen was clean (well, as clean as it gets) and everything wiped down and ready to go. The kettle was boiled and the food processor equipped with the standard attachment. We had a frying pan for the fish and a big pot for the greens.
First up are the ingredients for the mash: sweet potatoes, limes, coriander, mango chutney, and soy sauce.
For the greens, we had: red chilli, garlic, soy sauce, lime, sesame oil, pak choi, and broccoli.
For the fish, we had: pancetta, John Dory fillets, fennel seeds, and a lemon. For the lemon drink, we had: ice cubes, fizzy lemonade, mint, fresh ginger, and sparkling water.
And lastly, the dessert ingredients: frozen berries, honey, yoghurt, and mint.
Pots and pans, ready to go! The big pot is for the greens; the frying pan is for the fish. The mortar & pestle is also ready to go.
And he’s off! The Snook’s first job was the wash, trim, and halve the sweet potatoes.
He put these into a bowl along with half a lime. He covered it in cling film and put in the microwave to cook.
Next he prepared the dressing for the greens. The first step was to finely chop the red chilli.
Half of the chilli went into the serving bowl for the greens.
He then added garlic, soy sauce, extra virgin olive oil, lime juice, and sesame oil to make the dressing.
Next he prepared the broccoli by quartering each head.
For the pak choy, he simply cut it into more manageable lengths. All the veg got a wash.
Time to start the fish! He put the pancetta into the hot frying pan. (For some reason we cannot find strips of pancetta like Jamie uses; all we seem to get here is round.)
Now it’s time to prep the lemon ginger drink. He filled the jug with ice cubes and then poured over the fizzy lemonade.
Next he grated in the raw ginger.
Time to flip the pancetta!
To finish off the drink, he added some mint and topped it off with sparkling water.
Next it was time to start cooking the fish. The fillets went into the hot pan with the skin side down, and he held them flat for a few seconds with the spatula.
He then quickly pounded up some fennel seeds in the pestle & mortar…
…before sprinkling it over the fillets. He also grated over lemon zest and seasoned with salt and pepper.
Now for the mash. He started by chopping up most of a head of coriander.
He put the coriander on the serving board, then added mango chutney, soy sauce, extra virgin olive oil, lime juice, and the reserved bit of red chilli.
Time to cook the greens! They went into the big pot with boiling water from the kettle.
The fish seemed to be cooking nicely.
The sweet potatoes had finished in the microwave, so he removed the lime half and then started to mash it.
He combined the mashed sweet potatoes with the coriander and chilli mixture on the serving platter.
The fish was nearly cooked, so it was time to flip it. Unfortunately our skin didn’t crisp up quite the way it was meant to (maybe the pan wasn’t hot enough, or there wasn’t enough oil?) and it stuck a bit.
He drained the greens in a colander…
…before adding them to the prepared dressing.
The greens are tossed in the dressing to finish.
The fish fillets and pancetta were then added to the platter of mash.
And here is the completed main meal of John Dory fillet, crispy pancetta, sweet potato mash, Asian greens, and lemon ginger drink!
After the meal, I restarted the clock so the Snook could finish the dessert. He started by spooning some yoghurt into the food processor.
Next he added the frozen berries…
…before finishing it off with honey and mint sugar.
And here is the completed dessert of “1-minute berry ice cream.” (We served it over some mini meringues we had in the cupboard.)
Tasting notes: If you wanted to sum up the whole vibe of the 30 Minute Meals in one recipe, this is the one. It’s got the most common flavour profile and the most common techniques. It’s nothing earth shattering, but it’s a pretty good feed. For me the Asian greens were the highlight, and I can see myself using that dressing frequently in the future. The Snook says he’d be interested to try it with a different fish; maybe we could get the crispy skin if we tried again. The lemon drink was actually a neat trick with the grated ginger, and I think it’s something we might make again in the summer. This is just good “Tuesday night dinner” type food, not really something special enough for a dinner party. Still, we rated it 8-8.5/10 in flavour, and it was definitely one of the faster recipes in the book (despite its many components)!
Stay tuned for another recipe from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals!