Soy-glazed seabass

As far as jobs go, mine is marvellous. Becoming a chef was never a childhood dream – in another life I will be a ballet dancer – as it was far too sweaty, stressful, and you can’t paint your nails. But, contrary to my expectations, it is a role I’ve worked in for the last two years (read about my brutal introduction to work as a chef here). The hospitality industry’s reputation precedes itself but some jobs within this sector are better than others and I am blessed to say mine is one of those. There are surprisingly few candid accounts of life beyond the restaurant dining room which delve into the oppressive heat of the kitchen. Oh dear reader, what mysteries I can unveil for you right now! Sadly, I cannot provide too many details as you’ll never eat out again (I jest… kind of).

Hay-smoked burrata with griddled artichoke, fennel, herbs and bread crisp

The love of brunch takes you the cafe to eat. It also took myself and my colleagues; that mutual obsession with food. True, I repeatedly poach eggs, fry bacon and provide food for the customers’ pleasures as part of my daily working day, (ah customers, how I love to hate you) but there are some sly perks. In this case, an early start means an early finish. While some restaurants are breaking between lunch and dinner service as part of their 15-hour shift, we stroll out at 5pm happy with the day and ready for our evenings.

I’m proud to say that we make everything from scratch. The ketchup, the brown sauce, the peanut butter are all made by our fair hands. Our creativity is fanned like a flame and we are encouraged to explore cuisines and experiment with flavour –  a chef’s fantasy, I tell you.

Which takes me on to the specials. There should be a fanfare for that word. As I have already said, never ignore the specials board. (Potential inscription on my grave stone?) Chefs imbue every element of their dish with thought and care and, unlike the well-worn menu, it is a novelty thus the best meal they send out. Once a week each of us in the kitchen has a turn to shine and present a plate of food to be written on the menu, a thick roll of brown paper hanging by the till. Some of my colleagues nonchalantly plan their special the day before. I, on the other hand, take a number of weeks to note down recipes, ear-mark cookbooks and obsessively scroll Instagram allowing my ideas to evolve, and before long the plate isn’t big enough (‘ooh I’ll have to pickle that’, and ‘I need something crunchy…’). I decorate the plate with colour, bursts of pink with pickled radishes, sprinklings of nuts or seeds as with my soy-glazed seabass, or I keep it clean, letting pungent flavours like hay-smoked burrata shine (do not try this at home, hay goes everywhere).

Charred spring onion fritters with asparagus, pickled radish, baked ricotta and wild garlic aioli

With all this abundant creativity flowing, amidst the pressures of daily service, poaching those damn eggs and the intense summer heatwave I have been inspired and deflated simultaneously. It is said when a hobby becomes your career the love can suddenly shift into a burden – something I know well when faced with cooking dinner or just preparing a meal of Weetabix. Such an all-encompassing job leaves little room for anything else; your brain is wired to think about meal plans, menus and flavour combinations, much less that book you’ve been meaning to read or the blog post that sits in your drafts gathering dust.

When I am not writing I am absorbing, eagerly experimenting with ideas to pass along to you, dear reader. Each day I am learning something new, honing my cooking skills (I’m still to master the flambé with confidence – although I can handle accidental flambés so that they appear intentional). On top of that I challenge myself with my specials. Next time I will inch out of my comfort zone to cook pigeon, as far removed from my childhood dreams as I can imagine. In the meantime, here is special to try at home. No need to step into the restaurant kitchen unless you have to.

soy-glazed seabass
Soy-glazed seabass with sweet and sour vegetables and coconut rice

Soy-glazed seabass with coconut rice and raw sour vegetables

Adapted from Leiths Cookery Bible

Back in May I served this soy-glazed seabass with seasonal vegetables but feel free to eat it with pak choi or sautéed greens cooked in chilli and garlic.

Serves 4

4 fillets of seabass, skin on

Seabass glaze:
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp honey

Coconut rice:
200g basmati rice
1 tin of coconut milk

Sour dressing:
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp sunflower oil
Zest and juice of 1 lime

1 bunch of asparagus
1 bunch of spring onions
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
Sliced red chilli
Lime wedge, to serve

  1. Mix the glaze ingredients together. Sit the seabass upside-down in the marinade, avoiding the skin, and leave to absorb the flavours for up to 1 hour.
  2. To make the sour dressing pour the vinegar and sugar into a pan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Leave to cool then add the oil, lime juice and zest, and a little salt to taste.
  3. If using asparagus, slice each stick in half length-ways. Chop the spring onions at an angle. Toss the vegetables in half the dressing and set aside.
  4. Tip the rice along with the coconut milk and a tin full of water into a large saucepan. Season the liquid with salt. Bring to a simmer then cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes, occasionally stirring to stop the rice sticking to the base of the pan. When done it should be sticky with a bite.
  5. In a small frying pan gently toast the mustard seeds until they pop. Pour them into a bowl.
  6. Put a frying pan over high heat. Once hot cook the fish skin-side down for 2-3 minutes depending on the size of the fillet. Don’t overcrowd the pan or the fillets will sweat. Keep checking the heat, lower it if necessary as you don’t want the skin to burn. The flesh will gradually turn opaque around the edges as it cooks. Flip the fish over and cook the marinated flesh for another 2 minutes. Pour in some of the marinade to cook it through; it will bubble and thicken.
  7. Using a fish slice scoop the fillets onto plates, drizzle with marinade and serve with the dressed vegetables and dollop of coconut rice. Garnish with chilli slices, coriander leaves, toasted mustard seeds and the remaining dressing.

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12 responses to “Soy-glazed seabass”

  1. Hankerings Avatar

    These plates are STUNNING! 😍

    1. allyeatseverything Avatar

      Aw thank you very much! That’s so kind of you to say! X

  2. […] bent over vats of boiling vinegared water cracking in egg after egg. Or we’re playing around with the specials board (now just hear me out… never ignore the specials board… thanks) roasting pheasants […]

  3. […] I came up with this recipe for work, but ever since we’ve been devouring it at home, on holiday, while living in hostels in New Zealand, you name it. The marinated vegetables give a crisp bite while side of creamy, sticky coconut rice feels like an indulgence. Find the recipe here. […]

  4. […] after a few months away from professional kitchens where blowtorches, fire and singed arm hairs are acceptable, I finally decided enough was enough and […]

  5. […] as you nurse a cup of tea. I can’t tell you how soothing it is to rest my legs on the sofa after a day of standing – my cankles are evidence enough especially with a sightly indent from my socks’ […]

  6. […] olive oil and soy sauce collection. Most of the time life is far from glamorous; I drag myself home from work smelling of grease, some of us sit around in pyjamas all evening, we watch endless TikTok videos on the TV, and we all […]

  7. […] The new cafe is up and running. With a fully-functioning kitchen my colleagues and I are working on the line like cogs in a machine, churning out plates of merguez sausages and eggs benedict, or bent over vats of boiling vinegared water cracking in egg after egg. Or we’re playing around with the specials board (now just hear me out… never ignore the specials board… thanks) roasting pheasants slathered in butter, pan-frying hunks of cod, and whizzing up cavolo nero pesto. […]

  8. […] I came up with this recipe for work, but ever since we’ve been devouring it at home, on holiday, while living in hostels in New Zealand, you name it. The marinated vegetables give a crisp bite while side of creamy, sticky coconut rice feels like an indulgence. Find the recipe here. […]

  9. Chef Mimi Avatar

    Goodness. My blog name is chef Mimi, only because it’s been a nick name forever. I sometimes in the past kicked myself for using that name for fear that people think I am actually a chef, which I’m not. totally self taught. There’s no way you could pay me enough to be a chef. It’s such hard work! I really admire people who can be. I love catering, but it was all on my schedule and of course, not on a daily basis. My hat’s off to you! and great recipe. And now, I’m so old I don’t care what people think about “chef Mimi” 🤣

    1. Nigella Eats Everything Avatar

      Haha I completely understand, and you know that feeling you describe is exactly the same within the chef world! It took me sooo long to call myself a ‘chef’ and actually own it, and even then I couldn’t 100% because I chose to work in day time restaurants and cafes and not give up my life for work! Personally I think we should call ourselves chefs if we cook for lots of people who return for our food because it tastes so good! Therefore ‘Chef Mimi’ is totally allowed!

  10. […] There are signs advertising Veganuary draped around the fridges at my local Sainsbury’s. My cafe is specialising in vegan delicacies this month. We all know the health benefits of eating a […]

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