Roasted snapper with braised wild rice and calamari with ink sauce

Roasted snapper with braised wild rice and calamari with ink sauce

William Meppem

Local snapper from Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne is excellent and easily available. I like to buy smaller fish, around 2 kg, and serve a whole fillet per person, as the fish should be cooked quickly, staying crisp and moist. The secret to a good wild rice pilaf is to soak the grains first so the rice cooks evenly, and always use a full-flavoured stock and fragrant herbs. The addition of finely cut calamari looks attractive and is probably what a snapper would eat in the wild.


Quantity Ingredient
4 275 g snapper fillets, cleaned, scaled and pin-boned
100ml olive oil
75g butter
4 medium calamari tentacles
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
1 garlic clove, grated
4 lemon confit slices or shaved buddha’s hand citrus, caramelised with a blow torch

Wild rice

Quantity Ingredient
75ml olive oil
1 small bunch of rosemary
1 brown onion, finely chopped
100g wild rice, soaked for at least an hour
1 litre Chicken stock, hot
100g butter
50ml Chicken stock
knob butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
600g calamari tubes, split in half and finely julienned

Ink sauce

Quantity Ingredient
500g snapper bones, washed and finely chopped
100ml olive oil
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
50g shallots, roughly chopped
50g field mushrooms, finely chopped
250ml balsamic vinegar
100g sugar
250ml red wine
150ml Fish stock
125ml Veal jus
50g squid ink
100ml pouring cream
1 small bunch rosemary
100g cold butter, diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 220°C.
  2. To prepare the wild rice, heat a generous amount of olive oil in a deep ovenproof saucepan over a low heat. Add 6 finely sliced garlic cloves, the rosemary and onion and lightly cook until soft but without colouring. Drain the soaked wild rice and add to the pan. Cover with chicken stock, add the butter and cover with a greaseproof paper circle. Cover with a lid and bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. To finish, return the rice to the direct heat and cook for 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until the rice is evenly cooked and the stock and butter have reduced to a glossy sauce that coats the grains. The cooked rice should be soft but with a little texture. Tip out onto a tray to cool and cover until required.
  3. To make the sauce, ensure the fish bones are very fresh, well rinsed of any blood, and dry. In a wide saucepan heat some olive oil over a high heat and fry the snapper bones, taking care as they tend to spit and splutter as they fry. Then add the garlic and shallots and cook vigorously until all is nicely coloured golden-brown. Add the mushrooms, cook for 5 more minutes then deglaze with the balsamic vinegar and sugar. Reduce to a rich syrup, add the wine and reduce again to a syrup. Then add the fish stock and veal jus and bring to the boil. Finally add the squid ink.
  4. Reduce the ink stock by three-quarters until you have a thick syrup. Reduce the heat and add the cream and rosemary and reduce by half. Pass the sauce through a sieve then reheat over a medium heat and gradually whisk in the butter, piece by piece, until it is all absorbed. Season to taste and keep warm over a very low heat, but do not allow to boil or the sauce may separate.
  5. Trim the snapper fillets with a sharp knife so they have neat edges and ensure they are dry by pressing skin-side down on a clean tea towel. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a non-stick ovenproof frying pan over a high heat. Place the fish in the pan skin-side down and keep a reasonable amount of pressure on the fillets as they cook to prevent them curling (if they curl up they won’t cook evenly). Cook for about 4 minutes – do not turn the fish over.
  6. Put the pan and fish in the oven for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, reheat the rice with some additional chicken stock, the remaining 2 garlic cloves, grated, and a knob of butter, and season to taste. The rice should be a dryish, porridge-like consistency. Add the julienned calamari tubes to the rice and stir until cooked, for about 30 seconds, then immediately remove from the direct heat.
  7. Remove the pan of snapper from the oven and add some butter. As the butter foams, add the calamari tentacles, chopped rosemary and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds or so and season. Turn over the crisp roasted fillets and drain onto a tray lined with paper towels. Drain the calamari tentacles separately.
  8. Warm the rice again if necessary. Place a generous spoonful of the rice mixture neatly in the centre of each serving plate and spoon the ink sauce around the rice. Top the rice with the snapper fillet, arrange a lemon confit slice then a cooked calamari tentacle on top.

Chef’s note

  • Squid ink is readily available from most gourmet food shops and fishmongers. It has a very subtle flavour. Try adding it to risotto or Spanish calasparra rice pilaf to which has been added freshly poached Homemade Salt Cod.
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