Sea bass with crab mayonnaise, roasted fennel and orange

Sea bass with crab mayonnaise, roasted fennel and orange

British Seafood
David Loftus

Sea bass and crab are natural partners, like lamb and rosemary. From an oriental-style to an Italian dish, these great ingredients of the ocean seem to come together in so many cuisines.


Quantity Ingredient
4 portions filleted sea bass
1 live brown crab, placed in the freezer 1 hour before cooking, (see note)
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and halved
light rapeseed oil, for cooking
1 orange, peel and pith removed, segmented and diced
olive oil, to drizzle
cornish sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Mayonnaise and sauce

Quantity Ingredient
2 egg yolks
1 lemon, finely zested and juiced
300ml light olive oil
2 tablespoons tarragon, chopped
50ml double cream
100ml Shellfish stock, see crab variation


  1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil (big enough to submerge the crab). Season the water liberally with sea salt to make it as salty as seawater. When the water comes to a rolling boil, lower the crab into it and cook for 15 minutes.
  2. Carefully lift the crab out of the water, place on a board and leave until cool enough to handle. Prepare and extract the meat from the crab. Save the shell for the stock. Blend the brown crab meat in a food processor until smooth and save for the crab mayonnaise. Pick through the white meat removing any shell and cartilage; keep cool.
  3. For the mayonnaise, whisk the egg yolks, lemon juice and zest in a bowl and slowly add the oil drop by drop to begin with, then in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Mix half of this into the white crab meat with 2 tablespoons of brown meat, the chopped tarragon and salt and pepper to taste. Keep cool.
  4. For the sauce, whisk the cream into rest of the mayonnaise and thin down with the crab stock. Keep cool until serving.
  5. Heat your oven to 200°C. Cut each fennel half into 6 or 8 wedges. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add a drizzle of oil. When hot, add the fennel wedges and cook for 2 minutes on each side until golden. Season with salt and pepper and transfer the fennel to an oven tray. Place in the oven for 4 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, heat an ovenproof non-stick frying pan and add a drizzle of oil. When hot, place the fish, skin side down, in the pan and season with salt. Cook until the skin starts to turn golden, then transfer to the oven to cook for 4 minutes.
  7. When ready, take out the fennel; keep warm. Remove the fish and flip it over; it will finish cooking in the heat of the pan. Warm the crab sauce.
  8. Spoon the crab mayonnaise into the centre of 4 warmed plates, top with the fish and place the fennel alongside. Spoon the crab sauce around the fish. Finish with the orange pieces and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve at once.

Cooking crab

  • I put crabs into the freezer an hour or so before cooking to calm them down. Also, I always try to cook my crabs in sea water, but you can use 50 g salt to 1 litre tap water. Bring your salty water to a fast boil. Take the crab from the freezer and plunge an awl or other sharp pointed tool into one of the two points on its underside to kill it instantly, then plunge it into the boiling water. Once the water comes back to the boil, cook for 15 minutes if the crab is 600 g or less, adding 2 minutes for every extra 100 g. As soon as the crab is cooked, lift it out onto a tray to cool.

Preparing crab

  • Remove all the legs and claws from the cooked crab, by twisting them away from the body. Now, holding the crab in both hands, use your thumbs to push the body up and out of the hard top shell. Remove the dead man’s fingers, stomach sac and hard membranes from the body shell. Using a spoon, remove the brown crab from the top shell and put it into a bowl. Now cut the body in half with a sharp knife to reveal all the little channels of white crab meat. Use a crab pick or the back of a spoon to pick out all the crab meat from these crevices and put it into a bowl. Then, with a heavy knife, break the claw with one hard tap if possible and pick out the crab meat, removing the cartilage in the middle of each claw. Do the same to extract the meat from the legs. When you have taken out all the crab meat, go through it carefully with your fingers a couple of times to check for any stray fragments of shell.
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