“Gino’s Italian Escape” is a British documentary that you get to see on ITV where the charming Italian celebrity chef Gino D’Acampo embarks on a culinary journey of the Italian landscape to discover intriguing Italian recipes from across the country and where he connects with the people who make magic out of those ingredients to come up with tantalising dishes. As Gino keeps saying in his popular documentary that the most important two ingredients in every dish are “love” and “passion” that are essential to upgrade every dish from ordinary to extra-ordinary. I must admit that the ‘love’ and ‘passion’ I feel are for Gino actually – since he is just so irresistably hot and cute (Oh! Italian men, oh!), even if he would have cooked some hot air out of nowhere for me, I would have inhaled that with a happy burp of satisfaction (my secret regret for not escaping with an Italian man is no more a secret to you, eh!). However, like every Voracity experience I share with you, nothing comes without a personal twist, so the recipe below is something inspired by the Italian genius chef Gino, but I have made sure that my version of the ‘love’ and ‘passion’ are present in the recipe, so I have made it my own with my own twist and turns – of the spatula that is!
If you are wondering what the hell are capers, anyway? Well..Capers are pickled flower buds, which grows in the Mediterranean. As they’re picked by hand they’re fairly pricey but they’re a versatile store cupboard ingredient, and are good for adding a distinctive sour/salty flavour to many savoury dishes. My very first encounter with capers are through mediterranean cuisines. As I mainly eat fish dishes as main course when I go out for fine dining, I often found capers as topping for fish in Italian, Greek, French and in fact in many mediterranean dishes. Do I love them? They are a bit ok when used as topping for fish or chicken dish, I like them better in pasta and salad. As you see, capers aren’t new to the culinary scene — infact, they’ve been around since ancient times. They’re grown in parts of Asia, the Middle East, of course in the Mediterranean, North Africa, Southern Europe, Turkey and even in California.
To tip: To use capers in recipes it’s a good idea to rinse them first, to remove all the excess salt or brine.
The salty flavour of capers tossed in butter, tangy flavours of carrots marinated in balsamic vinegar and the crispyness of the pan fried sea bass make it a full-proof main course dish and will bring the fine dining experience to your very own kitchen. So, next time, when you plan for a fine dine experience, why not enjoy great food prepared by yourself in the comfort of your home, inspired by Gino and recreated by me.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Ingredients I Used:
1 sea bass fillets, pin-boned, skin on (Feel free to use any white fish, if sea bass is not available)
100g plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
For The Carrots Salad
3 medium carrots
2–3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 tablespoon salt
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
10 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Pinch of chilli flakes
4 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar (Gino’s recipe has White Wine Vinegar)
Note: The reason I used Balsamic vinegar instead of White wine vinegar (in Gino’s recipe) is, I didn’t have it avaiable at home at the time of preparing this dish. I am a believer of cooking smartly, so when one ingredient is not available at home or difficult to find, using substitute from the same family can give closer taste to the dish.
For The Caper Butter Sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
50g capers in salt, rinsed and chopped
4 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley (if not available at home, use coriander instead)
Lets Cook Now
Step One: Slice the carrots into chunks ½cm thick on the diagonal, cook in a saucepan of boiling water for 6 minutes. Meanwhile, put a griddle pan on a high heat. Remove the carrots from the pan and plunge into a bowl of iced water. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle over the olive oil, a good pinch of salt and toss together.
Step Two: Carefully put the carrot slices on the hot griddle and allow them to char – once you can see griddle lines, turn them over and cook on the other side. Do not fret over even if you don’t see the griddle lines, they are only for presentation purpose. Toss half the garlics in the same oil and remove from the heat. Transfer the carrots and garlics to a bowl and another drizzle of oil, the mint, chilli flakes and vinegar. Toss together and set aside.
Step Three: Make 2 diagonal incisions in the skin of each fish fillet then coat them in the seasoned flour and shake off any excess. Heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan, and once the butter starts to bubble place the fillets skin-side down in the pan, pushing them down so that they crisp up. Cook for 5–6 minutes then turn over the fillets and cook for a further 3 minutes. Remove the fish from the pan and keep warm.
Step Four: Wipe out the pan, add 3 tablespoons oil and heat on a medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute then add the capers and parsley. Add the butter, allow to melt then mix it into the other ingredients. Remove from the heat and squeeze in the lemon juice before giving it a final stir.
Step Five: Serve the fillets on individual plates with the carrots, and the sauce spooned over the fish. Voila!