Sea Bass with a Black Olive Crust

This recipe is based upon one in Nico by Nico Ladenis. My main change is to use wholemeal breadcrumbs instead of white and, rather than pressing and refrigerating the crust mixture before use, just to press it roughly straight onto the fish by hand; the result seems to be a better texture to me. This would work on many fish fillets but it is particularly good on sea bass.

You can, of course, use white bread if you prefer. Also, the herbs are just a guideline so feel free to mess with those to your liking.


serves: 4
preparation time: 20 mins
cooking time: 10 mins


  • ~7cms/3ins thick chunk of wholemeal loaf, crust removed
  • 20 black olives, pitted
  • 1 tbs fresh parsley, chopped
  • ½ tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • ½ tsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic, peeled
  • 50g butter
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • olive oil
  • 4 sea bass fillets, pin bones removed if possible
  • Salt & pepper


First make the black olive breadcrumb mixture. Blitz the bread into breadcrumbs, preferably in a food processor and turn it out into a glass bowl. Chop the olives reasonably finely and add them to the breadcrumbs followed by the chopped herbs. Crush the garlic clove and add it to the breadcrumbs together with a few twists of salt and pepper, then stir all together to mix well.

Heat the butter in a small frying pan to make a beurre noisette. When it is nicely nutty brown, turn off the heat and add the lemon juice to stop it cooking further. Pour the beurre noisette into the breadcrumb mixture and mix well with a fork. You should be able to form the mixture into a reasonably firm mass. You can do all the preceding ahead of time and leave the flavours to blend a little.

When you are ready to cook the fish, get your grill blastingly hot. Lightly oil the skin side of the fish fillets before putting them skin side down. Season each fillet lightly with salt and pepper, then coat the flesh side with the breadcrumb mixture. Just press a modest coating all over with your fingers.

Get a cast iron griddle (plain, not ridged) or a shallow cast iron skillet hot and place on each fillet skin side down. You want the griddle/pan hot enough for the skin to sizzle a little. Place the hot griddle/pan under the blastingly hot grill and brown the crumb topping for about 5 minutes. Make sure it doesn’t burn – your grill may be more powerful than mine. Brown is good, black is bad! The residual heat and grilling will finish cooking the fish through.

This is good served with a green vegetable and, perhaps, some finely sliced fresh fennel sautéed and flamed in a little Ricard.

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