Salt-baked fish with Ligurian herb sauce

Salt-baked fish with Ligurian herb sauce

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  • 0:30 Prep
  • 0:40 Cook
  • 4 Servings
  • Capable cooks

This ancient method of encasing fish to seal in the juices is very simple. The fun is in cracking off the salt crust at the end of cooking!

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Snapper recipes, Easy entertaining


  • 2 egg whites
  • 4kg coarse rock salt (see note)
  • 2 x 1kg whole snappers, cleaned, scales left on (see note)
  • 2 bunches asparagus, trimmed, steamed, to serve
  • 500g roasted cherry truss tomatoes, to serve

Ligurian herb sauce

  • 80ml (1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, very finely chopped (see note)
  • 1 small stalk celery, very finely chopped (see note)
  • 1 small carrot, peeled, very finely chopped (see note)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped anchovies
  • 2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed, drained, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon roasted pine nuts, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins, finely chopped (see note)
  • 250ml (1 cup) dry white wine
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) fish stock or chicken stock
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons basil leaves, finely chopped


  • You will need a large roasting pan big enough to hold the fish.


  • Step 1
    Preheat oven to 220C. Place egg whites in a large bowl and whisk for 2 minutes or until foamy. Add rock salt and, using your hands, combine well.
  • Step 2
    Spread one-third of the salt mixture over the base of roasting pan. Place fish head-to-tail on top of salt. Spoon over remaining salt mixture and, using your hands, press over fish to completely enclose (the tail may stick out slightly). Bake for 40 minutes or until salt has formed a very hard crust.
  • Step 3
    Meanwhile, to make Ligurian sauce, heat oil in a small saucepan over low–medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, garlic, thyme, anchovies, capers, pine nuts and raisins, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until vegetables are softened.
  • Step 4
    Add wine and stock, and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until reduced slightly. Remove thyme and discard. Stir in lemon juice and chopped herbs. Season with freshly ground black pepper (sauce will be salty from capers and anchovies). Cool to room temperature. Makes 375ml.
  • Step 5
    Using a meat mallet or rolling pin and starting at the head, carefully crack open salt crust on fish. Using your hands, pull away salt in clumps and discard.
  • Step 6
    Using spatulas, remove fish from roasting pan, transfer to a plate, then carefully peel away skin and discard. Using a butter knife or small pallette knife, lift flesh off the bone in large pieces. Pull out backbones and discard. Remove flesh from other sides of fish.
  • Step 7
    Divide fish meat among plates and serve immediately with Ligurian sauce, asparagus and tomatoes.


Coarse rock salt is available in 1kg bags form supermarkets.

Ask the fishmonger to clean the fish leaving the scales on.

Try to finely chop the vegetables by hand, as a food processor will break them down too much, releasing their liquid.

Golden raisins are available from selected delis. Substitute regular raisins.

  • Author: Leanne Kitchen
  • Image credit: Jeremy Simons
  • Publication: MasterChef



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