"This is a dish for a special occasion - it has quite a few elements and will take some planning," says Cooke. "To cook a whole fish in a salt crust seals in the flavour of the flesh and maintains the moisture. Have your fishmonger scale the fish and remove the fins."
- 10 vine-ripened tomatoes, bases scored
- 200 ml olive oil
- 1½ small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced on a mandolin
- 150 gm (1 cup) Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 2 Cone Bay barramundi fillets (about 550gm each) from 1 barramundi, pin-boned
- For brushing: eggwash
- 10 large kipfler potatoes (about 1.2kg), scrubbed
- 200 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 1½ cups (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
- To serve: radicchio, fennel and pear salad
- 1.4 kg plain flour
- 1 kg rock salt
- 2 cups thyme (about 8 bunches), coarsely chopped
- 2 cups rosemary (about 5 bunches), coarsely chopped
- 7 eggwhites, lightly beaten
- 125 gm plain flour, sieved
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 400 ml milk
- 1 tbsp finely chopped chives
- For brushing: melted butter
- 250 ml (1 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
- 80 ml (1/3 cup) lemon juice
- 2 tsp coriander seeds, finely crushed with a mortar and pestle
- 1 cup (firmly packed) basil, cut into julienne
- 1Preheat oven to 80C. Blanch tomatoes until skins split (20-30 seconds), refresh in iced water. Drain, peel, halve and remove seeds (discard skin and seeds). Place 8 tomato halves cut-side down in a baking dish to fit snugly, drizzle with 100ml olive oil, season to taste and roast until tender (1-1½ hours). Coarsely chop and set aside. Reserve remaining tomatoes for sauce vierge.
- 2Meanwhile, for salt crust, combine dry ingredients and herbs in a large bowl, then turn out onto a work surface and make a well in the centre, add eggwhite and 600ml water then, gradually working the wet ingredients into the dry without breaking the well, knead to form a dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to rest (1 hour).
- 3For crêpes, sieve flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre, gradually add eggs and milk to well, and whisk until a smooth batter forms. Add chives, season to taste and refrigerate to rest
(1 hour). Heat a 24cm non-stick frying pan or crêpe pan over medium-high heat, brush pan with a little butter, pour in a ¼ cup of batter and cook, turning once, until golden (30 seconds to 1 minute). Place on a plate and repeat with remaining batter.
- 4Heat remaining olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat, add fennel and stir occasionally to sear and crisp (30 seconds-1 minute). Remove from heat, then add olives and confit tomatoes to fennel, toss to combine, season to taste, set aside.
- 5Increase oven heat to 200C. Cut salt crust dough in half and roll a half between 2 sheets of baking paper to a 28cm x 46cm rectangle. Remove top sheet of baking paper and place dough on a large tray. Repeat with remaining dough and set aside.
- 6Place 3-4 crêpes overlapping along one dough sheet and place one barramundi fillet skin-side down on top. Drain excess liquid from fennel mixture, spoon over barramundi, then top with remaining fillet skin-side up and head to tail with base fillet. Top with another 3-4 crêpes (you may have crêpes left over), then place remaining salt-crust dough over, seal and trim edges, brush all over with eggwash and roast until crust is golden and fish is cooked (1 hour).
- 7Cook potatoes in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender (15-25 minutes), drain, peel and set aside. Heat extra-virgin olive oil and parsley in a frying pan over medium-high heat, add potatoes and crush with a fork until combined, season to taste and keep warm.
- 8For sauce vierge, combine extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, coriander seeds and basil in a small saucepan, season to taste and stir gently over low heat to warm through (1-2 minutes). Dice remaining tomatoes, add to oil mixture and set aside.
- 9To serve, remove crust from fish (discard) then divide fish among plates, drizzle with sauce vierge and serve with crushed potatoes and a radicchio, fennel and pear salad to the side.
Drink Suggestion: 2008 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet, Clavoillon 1er Cru. Drink suggestion by Garrett Donovan