If you've never tried cooking in salt before; you'll see how it locks in all the flavour and moisture, but leaves the flesh clean-tasting and salt free.
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7.
Using a heavy pair of kitchen scissors, trim off the fins from the fish, leaving the skin intact. Next, cut away the gills and give the fish a quick rinse in cold water then dry off with paper towel. Fill the belly cavity of each fish with lemon slices and season inside with pepper.
In a large bowl, mix the herbs with the salt, flour, lemon zest, chilli flakes and beaten egg white. Take a baking tray large enough to fit the fish whole and line the tray with baking paper. Set the fish on top. Mould the salt mixture over the fish to cover it completely with a layer about 1cm thick.
Place the tray in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. The salt will be rock solid when ready. Remove from the oven and break away the salt. Breaking away the salt needs to be done with great care or you↑ll end up with mashed fish. The beauty of this method of cooking is that is keeps the fish really moist, so the flesh is particularly soft and therefore vulnerable when you↑re removing the salt. You will however have to bash the solid salt with a large knife to get into it.
Cooking the fish on baking paper helps because you can separate the salt from the paper and hopefully lever the complete coating away from the cooked fish. To remove the skin, scrape it away carefully, using a small knife. Chop off the head before serving and coat the fish simply with a little melted butter and a lemon wedge on the side.
For the new potato, pepper and chorizo salad, scrub the potatoes and cook in simmering salted water until just done, drain in a colander and let cool slightly.
Take the peppers and cut into broad strips. Make the dressing by whisking together the garlic, vinegar, olive oil, parsley and mustard. Season and pour one third of the dressing over the peppers.
Thickly slice the warm potatoes and place in a separate bowl with the spring onions and remaining vinaigrette.
Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and add a little oil. Fry the sliced chorizo briskly until crisp and lightly coloured. If you are using ready-to-eat rather than raw chorizo, simply brown it over a medium heat. Tip the contents of the pan over the potatoes, mix in and season as required. Fold in the marinated peppers, olives and parsley.
Serve the fish and salad on warm plates with a small pot or dollop of crème fraîche on the side. Serve one fish per person with a little melted butter and a lemon wedge.
Your local fishmonger is the best person to ask for advice (aside from Nick, John & Tristan of course!)
For the fish
2 medium-sized whole sea bass, cleaned and scaled
1 lemon, thickly sliced
leaves from small bunch of thyme
chopped leaves from 2 sprigs rosemary
2.5kg coarse sea salt
300g plain flour
zest of 1 lemon, grated
1 tsp chilli flakes
4 egg whites, lightly beaten
freshly ground black pepper
melted butter and lemon wedges to serve
For the new potato and chorizo salad
300g new potatoes
handful roasted piquillo peppers, from a jar
½ clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp flat parsley, roughly chopped
¼ tsp Dijon mustard
4 spring onions, thickly sliced on the diagonal
150g raw chorizo, thinly sliced on the diagonal
stoned black olives
freshly milled black pepper
crème fraîche, to serve