A beautiful cooked whole fish, stuffed with lemons, herbs and garlic. Baked in the oven for less than 30 minutes and served with a simple dairy and gluten free sauce made from tomatoes, pine nuts, olives and basil. If you are looking for a healthy and light preparation for your whole fish, then this whole baked barramundi with sauce vierge recipe is for you.
As a chef, when it comes to proteins, I love cooking seafood the most. Especially fish, as it is the most delicate of them all and hence, should be cooked with a lot of respect. That’s why at work, I make sure seafood is cooked at the last moment.
Did you know cooking a whole fish is easier than cooking a fish fillet? Why because a fillet overcooks faster compared to a whole fish. Cooking a whole fish on the bone will give you amazing results – juicy, flaky and tender on the inside whereas the outside will be nice and crispy. Even though this a foolproof method, you still have to be careful not to undercook the fish.
Tip: Check the doneness by running your knife carefully between the bone and the flesh, just above the stuffing. Cooked fish will flake easily and it will not have that translucent, raw appearance.
How to choose the Fish for this recipe
Make sure when buying fish for this whole baked barramundi with sauce vierge recipe, you don’t compromise on quality. Freshness is key so choose the fish yourself. Below are a few things to look out for when buying fish at the fishmonger:
- Have a close look at the fish.
- The eyes should be bright and clear.
- Gills should be bright red.
- The flesh should bounce back on pressing lightly
- And most important, the smell should be pleasant and not fishy.
I used the Barramundi fish, also known as the Asian Seabass for this recipe. It is native to Australia and the Indo-Pacific. Besides being mild, sweet and succulent, it has a beautiful buttery- meaty texture which makes it easy to cook with. Coming from Europe originally, I would have used a Seabass back home. Other fish which work well are Grouper, Snapper or Seabream.
I try to be responsible by buying sustainable fish whenever I can. This is something I strongly encourage you to do as well. If you are not sure, have a chat with your local fishmonger as they will be more than happy to guide you. I, also highly recommend, you get your fishmonger to gut and scale the fish for you. Even as a professional chef, this is something I do not like to do in my kitchen at home! It’s just too messy😣
How to prepare and cook a whole Barramundi
Now that you have purchased the fish, preparing and cooking it is easier than it seems. Rinse the fish with cold water and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Score the fish with a sharp knife by cutting just through the skin along where the fillets sit.
To give extra flavour, you can stuff the fish with aromatic ingredients you want the fish to taste like. Just be mindful we are serving the fish with sauce vierge, so we don’t want to overpower the fish flavour by using strong aromatics.
I stuffed the fish with basil stems, thyme sprigs, crushed garlic cloves, lemon slices, salt and pepper.
To make sure the stuffing doesn’t fall out, I tied the fish with butcher’s string. On the outside, I brushed the fish with olive oil and sprinkled plenty of salt. Make sure the fish is coated nicely with salt on all sides.
The fish then went into a pre-heated oven at 190 degrees, make sure you use baking paper to avoid the fish sticking to the oven tray!
For a barramundi weighing 800g to 1kg, it takes between 20 to 25 minutes to cook but this may vary a bit depending on your oven so keep checking. When cooked, do not leave the fish in the oven as it will overcook. Instead, take it out immediately, squeeze some lemon juice over the fish and serve.
If you are looking for more recipes for cooking a whole fish, try our recipe for whole baked fish in salt crust with salsa verde. Another great dish to share with family and friends!
What is Sauce Vierge?
Sauce Vierge is a sauce, re-invented by Michel Guerard in the 70’s, a well known chef from the South of France. He is also one of the founders of the Nouvelle cuisine, a culinary revolution that started in the 60’s. His sauce vierge was the opposite of the typical French sauces, that are heavy on cream and butter.
Made with good quality extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, makes sauce vierge the perfect accompaniment to any fish or seafood. Quick and easy to prepare in less than ten minutes as it doesn’t involve much cooking 😉 My sauce vierge is a variation to the original sauce, as I have added olives and pine nuts which are perfect for the whole baked barramundi!
What ingredients do I need to make Sauce Vierge?
- Tomatoes are the main ingredient of a sauce vierge. Go for ripe red tomatoes, preferably plum or roma tomatoes as they are more firm and easier to cut.
- Shallots have a mild flavour and are great when used raw. I have used diced shallots in my sauce vierge but these can be replaced with red onions or spring onions.
- Basil works best with fish. Other herbs that can be used in the sauce are parsley, chive, tarragon, dill or coriander.
- Lemon adds great freshness to the sauce, half a lemon is enough
- Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pines. They are quite expensive so feel free to replace them with toasted almonds.
- Olives are essential in my version of sauce vierge, they give a nice saltiness and body to the sauce. I used pitted Kalamata olives.
- Olive oil– use a good extra virgin olive oil.
How to make my Sauce Vierge Recipe
To make the sauce, we need to first cut the tomatoes lengthwise in four. In a restaurant I would blanche the tomatoes and peel them but these are small details less important when cooking at home. Next we need to deseed the tomatoes and cut in dices.
Cut the shallots in small dices and add to the tomatoes. In a pan toast the pine nuts until they turn light brown. Cut the olives into fours and chop the basil leaves lengthwise.
In a bowl combine all the ingredients and add olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Voila!! Your sauce vierge is ready before the fish has even finished cooking!
What to serve with a Whole Baked Fish
Besides the sauce vierge recipe, below are some more alternatives to serve with your baked barramundi:
–fennel and blood orange salad with feta
–baked sweet potato with swiss chard and lentils
–cos heart salad with buttermilk dressing and lardons
–roasted baby carrots with carrot top chimichurri
-our baked cauliflower with garlic and lime
Looking for more barramundi recipes? Download the free recipe book from australian barramundi!
As a Tip: you can use this sauce to compliment vegetarian dishes too. We love Sauce Vierge on grilled halloumi, it’s a perfect combo.
Whole Baked Barramundi with Sauce Vierge
- oven tray
- butcher string
For the Fish
- 2 whole barramundi 800g-1kg each
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 1 large lemon
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 4 cloves garlic
- salt & pepper
For the Sauce Vierge
- 4 no. roma tomatoes
- 1 large shallot
- 60 g pine nuts
- 50 g kalamata olives
- 1 bunch basil
- ½ lemon
- 125 ml olive oil
- sea salt and pepper to taste
For the Fish
- Rinse the fish under cold water and pat dry. Slice the lemon in rounds and crush the garlic clove with your fist.
- Stuff the fish with the lemon slices, crushed garlic, thyme, basil stems (left from the sauce vierge). Rub the outside of the fish with olive oil and sprinkle salt on all sides. Season the insides with salt and pepper.
- Place the fish on baking paper before placing it on the baking tray. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 190° degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.
For the Sauce Vierge
- Cut the tomatoes lengthwise in four. Remove the seeds and cut into dices.
- Peel the shallots and cut in small dices. Chop the basil leaves lengthwise
- Toast the pine nuts in a pan for a few minutes until they turn light brown.
- Cut the olives into fours.
- In a bowl combine all the ingredients and add the olive oil, juice from ½ a lemon, salt and pepper.