John Dory with fennel and saffron


A fast, clean way with fish, especially delicately flavoured fish like John Dory. It picks up some of the anise-like flavour of the fennel, as well as the wine and saffron, without being overwhelmed. For all its apparent fanciness, you can put it together in the time it takes to pre-heat the oven. It’s also a very elastic, forgiving recipe: use as much fish as you like in whatever sized baking dish you have, simply ensuring the fish is sitting on top of the fennel and above the liquid. Buy fennel with its green fronds still attached and use them in the same way as you would dill, sprinkling over at the last second before serving. As to the wine, use the same one you’ll be drinking with the fish. Dry whites are great, although I have even used a fully wooded Chardonnay and it was terrific.

John Dory with fennel and saffron


Serves 2.

½ cup white wine
pinch of saffron threads
1 bulb fennel, trimmed, fronds reserved
4 John Dory fillets
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Set your oven to 220°C (425°F).

Add the saffron to the wine and set aside to let it steep.

Slice the fennel as finely as you can; using a mandoline makes quick work of this. Line the bottom of a baking dish which will accommodate all the fish with fennel slices.

Season the fish fillets lightly on both sides with salt and pepper and lay on top of the fennel. Pour over the saffron-infused wine, cover the dish tightly with foil and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the foil, turn the oven down to 160°C and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through, remembering that it will continue to cook a little after being removed from the oven.