Do you remember where you were the first time you ate a particular thing? Obviously not everything, but things that were exciting, surprising, or just amazingly delicious? I certainly remember the first time I ate fish with sauce vierge. It was about 15 years ago, and it’s still one of my favourite things to eat – so simple, and so, so delicious.
Perhaps the reason I can pin it down so exactly is that it was also slightly unusual circumstances. I was in Cannes, in the South of France, on a Pesach programme in a fancy hotel, with my parents and assorted other family and friends. I’m not sure why we went, as we weren’t in the habit of going away for Pesach, but it was rather wonderful and very indulgent.
Dinner each evening was four courses – starter, fish, meat, and dessert. I didn’t eat the meat course and usually the three other courses were plenty for me! But I was always offered a second portion of the fish course, and I’m pretty sure I had seconds of the wonderful fish with sauce vierge. I would have been foolish not to!
Sauce vierge is a traditional French sauce which became popular in the 1980s (I’m only 30+ years behind the trend!) and is most simply made from tomatoes, garlic, basil, lemon juice and olive oil. There are various other optional extras, such as soft herbs like parsley, tarragon or chives, spices like coriander, or even things like capers, lemon zest or olives. The ingredients are mixed together and the flavours allowed to mingle. That’s it! It couldn’t be easier and the result is just divine.
The recipe here is the one that I created to replicate the dish I ate in Cannes, and have made many, many times since. It is particularly good at this time of year when the tomatoes are really ripe and flavourful, and the herbs can be picked fresh from the garden. But in the depths of winter I still call on it, to bring a ray of Mediterranean sunshine to our table ☀️. DH loves it too. His face lights up when he hears that this is on the menu.
I’ve served the sauce vierge here with grilled sea bass fillet, but it goes really well with any white fish, so feel free to spoon generously over cod, haddock or hake. It’s also lovely with lightly steamed vegetables or potatoes, and you can even just stir it into couscous or quinoa for a quick and tasty side dish. Have some bread on hand to soak up the deliciously flavoured oil, too.
This recipe makes enough for 3-4 portions of sauce vierge, but I usually make extra.
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Grilled sea bass with sauce vierge
Delicate white fish, cooked to perfection and blanketed with this delicious French sauce, full of Mediterranean flavours.
- 100 g cherry or baby plum tomatoes
- 1.5-2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1.5-2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
- 0.5 tsp coriander seed, crushed
- 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
- Juice of a lemon
- 200 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 4 sea bass fillets
- salt and pepper
- Few tsp olive oil
First make the sauce vierge. Cut the tomatoes into fine dice - about 5mm size. Place in a bowl with the parsley, basil, crushed coriander seeds, sliced garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, and mix gently. Set aside to macerate and allow the flavours to combine.
Preheat the grill (broiler) to medium high. Line a baking sheet with foil and brush with a little oil.
Pat the sea bass fillets dry with kitchen paper and place on the prepared tray. Brush a little olive oil over the fish and season with salt and pepper.
Cook the fish under the grill (broiler) for 4-6 minutes until just cooked through. Remove from the grill and allow to cool slightly before serving.
To serve, place each sea bass fillet onto a plate and spoon a generous amount of the sauce vierge over and around the fish. Serve warm or at room temperature.