A beautifully cooked whole fish, perfectly seasoned and juicy all the way through. Baked in a salt crust and served with a salsa verde this baked whole barramundi has and will leave your guests astonished.
If you like a bit of theater when you are entertaining then you have to make this recipe for your next dinner party.
We love to keep it simple when we have guests over. Even so, I love dishing up a fine dining plated meal, I don’t see the fun in it anymore. Spending hours in the kitchen while everyone is having a good time, is not my idea of a great evening!
Shared dishes are ideal that’s why. It might take a bit longer to prepare these beforehand but much convenient to serve when it’s time to sit down and eat. The whole salt baked fish with salsa verde is one of those dishes I love to serve. It just needs a few sides and sauces and you can sit back and enjoy the meal with everyone.
How to prepare a whole barramundi?
Firstly and most importantly, buy a fresh fish that has been gutted and scaled. Trust me, this is something you don’t want to do at home, it’s too messy. Now rinse the fish under cold water and pat it dry with a towel.
Remove the fins from the fish using kitchen scissors.
Yes, you do need them! The fins are quite tough to cut through. I tried to use my son’s craft scissors since I left mine at work and I failed terribly. Otherwise ask your fish monger to take the fins off as well for you, I am pretty sure it won’t be a hassle for them!
Next, stuff the cavity of the fish with parsley stems (we are using parsley for the salsa verde so you will have the stems left over), lemon thyme (or just thyme is also fine), crushed garlic cloves and sliced lemon.
Note: Don’t season the fish with salt as the salt crust will do all the seasoning for you.
Which Fish should I use if cooking whole?
For cooking a whole fish you need to shop for a large fish. Ideal are fish like seabass, barramundi, red snapper, grouper, turbot, perch and of course salmon. We used Barramundi, a fish that is widely known in Australia.
Note: Depending on where you live there will be a variety of fish available to you, but remember to look for sustainable fish.
How to make a salt crust?
Whole barramundi baked in a salt crust is a beautiful way of cooking fish. The salt crust works magic in this recipe. Not only does the salt act as a seasoning all the way through but it also protects the fish from direct high heat and therefore avoids overcooking.
We have made the salt crust with fine salt and egg whites. Beat the egg whites lightly with a whisk and then mix into the salt. I have added measurements in the recipe below but most important is to understand the consistency required for the salt mixture.
When done right it should feel like wet mud. Have cold water by your side when you are mixing the egg white and salt, add a few spoons if needed. When you have your hands in the the egg and salt mixture, it will remind you of wet sand while building a sand castle, it’s actually very satisfying.
You might be wondering why we use egg white instead of just using water. Well, water does work too but it will form cracks in the crust and it will eventually break into small pieces when you try to open the crust.
The egg white and salt turn into a dough which helps cooking the fish evenly. Imagine that impressive presentation when you crack open the crust and reveal the fish!! It is literally like revealing a pearl in an oyster!
How to bake a whole barramundi fish in a salt crust?
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Place one third of the salt mixture on a large baking tray. I had to use an oven rack and cover it with aluminium foil since we didn’t have a large enough tray.
Now place the stuffed fish down on the salt bed and cover with the remaining salt completely.
Wet your hands and stroke the crust to make sure the salt is smooth and the fish completely sealed in. Ensure there are no cracks anywhere.
Cook the fish in the oven at 200 degrees for 40 minutes. Depending on the size of the fish, cooking time can vary. A smaller fish would take 30-35 minutes whereas a whole salmon will take around 45-50 minutes.
Is the fish cooked?
Use a metal skewer to poke through the salt crust, into the fish. If the skewer comes out hot, the fish is cooked but if it is just warm, then leave it in the oven for 5 more minutes.
Once the fish is cooked, leave it to rest for at least 5 minutes. This way you will be able to touch the crust without burning your hands. Make sure all your sides are ready before you open the crust, even so the fish is hot now it cools down quickly once the crust has been removed.
How to open the crust keeping it intact?
Use the tip of a sharp knife to mark a line around the fish, this is the line where you want to cut into. It will seem difficult at the beginning but once you have started to cut into the crust, it will be easier to go all the way around.
Open the crust and peel back the skin of the Barramundi gently. You can use a cake lifter or something similar to remove the flesh of the fish.
As a tip: If you are planning to make a large fish in a salt crust and are worried about the size of your oven, ask your fish monger to remove the head and if its still too big then you can remove the tail as well.
What to serve with a whole salt baked barramundi?
I made a salsa verde (green sauce) for the salt baked barramundi fish, a cold herb sauce that is quick to prepare and requires no cooking. On the side, we also served garlic roasted potatoes and a cos lettuce salad.
Keep it simple! The salt baked whole barramundi is the star dish and best accompanied with just the salsa verde and a few tasty sides.
- Serve with cous cous salad and a garlic aioli
- white rice and a sesame and ginger dressing goes well too
- A side of steamed vegetables and garlic butter is also a good option
- Otherwise grilled asparagus and sauce vierge also work beautifully
More Seafood Recipes
- whole baked barramundi with sauce vierge
- classic Nicoise Salad Recipe with fresh tuna
- kale quinoa salad with salmon and miso dressing
- beet cured salmon gravlax with mustard dill sauce
- chilled avocado and green apple soup with tiger prawns
Whole Baked Barramundi in Salt Crust with Salsa Verde
for the salt baked fish
- 2.8 kg Whole Barramundi
- 2.8 kg salt
- 6 large egg whites
- ½ lemon sliced
- 1 sprig lemon thyme
- 2 garlic clove crushed
for the salsa verde
- 1 bunch flat parsley
- 1 garlic clove peeled
- 1 lemon
- 40 g cornichons
- 1 tbsp capers
- ½ red onion peeled
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 180 ml olive oil
- salt, pepper
for the salt baked fish
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Whisk the egg whites until they start foaming up. Take the salt out into a large bowl and then pour the egg white mix into the salt.
- Use your hands to mix the salt and egg whites and have a feel of the consistency.
- The salt dough should feel like wet sand. Add a few spoons of cold water if the salt dough feels too dry.
- Rinse the fish under cold water and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Cut the fins from the fish with a sharp kitchen scissor. Stuff the cavity with the parsley stems (if you are making the salsa verde), crushed garlic, lemon thyme and sliced lemons.
- On a large baking tray spread one third of the salt dough and press down with the palm of your hands to have an even layer. Place the fish on top and cover with the remaining salt dough. Stroke the salt dough with wet hands from head to tail making sure there are no cracks forming on the surface.
- Place the fish in the oven and cook for 40 minutes. To check the doneness stick a metal skewer through the salt crust into the fish. If the skewer feels hot the fish is done, if the skewer is only warm keep cooking for another 5 minutes.
- Remove the fish and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. Take a sharp knife and run the tip of the knife around the crust where you will make the cut.
- Now start cutting into the crust along the line until you are able to remove the top part.
- Use a cake lifter to serve the fish fillets.
for the salsa verde
- Pick the leaves from the parsley and keep the stems to stuff the fish. Chop the parsley by hand. Cut the red onions into fine dices. Chop the garlic, capers and cornichons. Add all the ingredients into a mixing bowl.
- Grate the skin of the lemon into the bowl and add the juice of the lemon. Add the vinegar, mustard and olive oil and mix well.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve on the side.