This has evolved into a recipe that has become something of a national Italian dish, but my version is the one I learned to make on the beautiful island of Sardinia, and it has never let me down.
1sea bass, weighing about 800g/1 ¾lb
6fresh sage leaves
6fresh thyme sprigs
ahandful of fresh parsley
2 or 3fresh chervil sprigs
3fresh rosemary sprigs
2garlic cloves, finely chopped
1kg/2 ¼lbsea salt
1kg/2 ¼lbcoarse sea salt
boiled or roasted potatoes, lightly dressed with olive oil, salt and chopped herbs, and wedges of lemon, to serve
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Prepare the fish by gutting and scaling it, then rinse it thoroughly and pat it dry inside and outside.
Chop all the herbs finely and divide them in half. Mix one half with the lemon zest and the garlic.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold in the remaining herbs, then the salts.
Lay a sheet of baking parchment over a shallow baking tray and spread a thin layer of the salt mixture across it, about 1.5cm/¾in deep, roughly the size of the fish.
Put the reserved mixture of herbs, lemon zest and garlic inside the fish, then lay it on top of the salt bed. Cover the fish with the rest of the salt paste, pressing to help it to stick and shaping it around the fish.
Bake for about 40 minutes (if you are using 2 smaller fish of about half the weight each, reduce the time to 20-25 minutes).
Remove from the oven and let it stand for about 2 minutes, then crack the crust with a small hammer or heavy object (I use the pestle from my mortar and pestle). Skin and fillet the fish. Serve with the dressed potatoes and wedges of lemon.