"Spelt is an ancient British grain that can be cooked in much the same way as risotto rice but which offers a bit more bite and a lovely nutty flavour. If you can't find sea bass, then bream, salmon and cod all make great alternatives," says Mark, chef-proprietor of Rocksalt and The Smokehouse in Folkestone, Kent.
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 5 minutes
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 sea bass fillets, scaled and pin boned
Small knob unsalted butter
For the creamed crab and chilli spelt
60g unsalted butter
2 echalion shallots, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
½ x 20g pack thyme, leaves picked
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200g pearled spelt (or arborio rice)
100g brown crab meat
800ml fresh chicken stock
2½ tbsp double cream
25g pack chives, finely chopped
100g white crab meat
1. To make the crab and chilli spelt, heat the butter in a saucepan, add the shallots and cook gently until soft but not browned – about 10 minutes. Add the bay leaf, thyme leaves, chilli and garlic; cook for 2 minutes more. Add the spelt (or rice) and cook for another 2 minutes, then stir in the brown crab meat. Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small saucepan.
2. Add the warm stock to the spelt a ladle at a time, stirring continuously, adding more stock once it has been absorbed. Cook until the spelt is just tender – about 15-20 minutes; set aside while you cook the fish.
3. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Pat the sea bass fillets dry on kitchen paper and season. Place the fillets skin-side down in the pan (if they curl up a little, press firmly and they will relax back down). Cook for about 4-5 minutes, until almost cooked through. Add the butter, take the pan off the heat and turn the fish over – the residual heat will cook the fish through while you finish the spelt.
4. Put the spelt back on the heat to warm through, then stir in the cream, chives and white crab meat. It should have a loose texture that settles once stirred, like risotto; add a splash more stock (or water) if it seems too dry. Season, divide between plates or shallow bowls and top with the sea bass.