From the oven emerges a spectacular golden crust of baked salt. Cracked open it reveals whole fish, steamed in their own evaporated juices. The taste is unlike fish cooked using any other method — sweet, rich and, surprisingly, not salty. Traditionally from the Mediterranean coast of Spain, this salt crust method is also used to cook sea bream or snapper, so translates perfectly to the Australian kitchen. It is best to keep the scales on the fish to protect the fish from the salt.
Trim the fins from the fish with a pair of kitchen scissors and discard. Leave the tail on the fish. Rinse the inside of the fish clean and pat dry with paper towel. Lightly season the inside of each fish with salt and insert a rosemary sprig into the cavity of each fish.
In a bowl, mix the salt and egg whites together thoroughly. It will form a very thick, mortar-like slurry. On a baking tray, lay a thin bed of this mixture, enough to support the fish, with a small space between each fish. Place the fish on the bed of salt, leaving small gaps in between, so the salt mix can seal off each fish. Cover the fish completely with the remainder of the mix, leaving the tail and head protruding.
Remove from the oven and break the crust on top with your fingers. When you remove the upper crust some of the skin and scales should come away with the crust. Before eating, remove any skin that sticks to the flesh (it slides off easily) and brush away any excess salt. Squeeze the lemon over the fish.
Serve the exposed fillet first by lifting the flesh away from the bone, tail end first. The tail, spine and bones can then be lifted off in one piece and discarded, revealing the other fillet underneath.
© 2007 All rights reserved. Published by Murdoch Books.