1 ×1kg whole sea bass, or 2 sea bass fillets, scaled but skin on, about 800g
120g coarse salt
120g raw sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed, plus a pinch for garnish
2–3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
pink or black peppercorns, to serve
20 baguette slices
1 garlic clove
butter, softened

Served on warm crostini with butter, this fragrant cured sea bass seems to melt in your mouth and is an absolute treat for the senses. This brilliant dish is inspired by a recipe in the Slow Food–produced cookbook, Ricette di Osterie del Veneto, from Ristorante Al Vecchio Marina on the Lido of Jesolo, a 15km (9-mile) long beach north-east of Venice. I found it so intriguing because of the use of a spice like cumin, which is rare in Italian cuisine, but it is so perfectly suited to this dish, and also for the choice to cure a fish such as sea bass, which in Venice is prized for its delicate flesh and is traditionally roasted or boiled for very special occasions, such as Christmas Eve. The original recipe has fresh lemon balm (melissa) leaves decorating it too, but I prefer the spices; a pinch of cumin and some pink peppercorn is lovely. You need to begin this recipe at least 2 days before you want to serve it (5 days, according to the original recipe, but I cannot wait that long). Cuisine note: In place of sea bass you could use hāpuku, blue cod or snapper.

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1.To fillet the whole fish, first make a diagonal slice that almost cuts the head off and follows the opening of the gills.
2.From here you will cut the first fillet by locating the backbone and, using the spine as a guide, cut all the way along the length of the fish to the tail and pull out the first fillet.
3.Now flip the fish over and repeat. You should be left with a head and bones and tail all attached. This makes the most wonderful stock for a fish soup or a fish risotto, so set it aside for boiling with a carrot, onion and celery, then strain – this freezes well.
4.Otherwise, ask your fishmonger to fillet it for you (and if you would like to keep the rest for stock, do tell them that you want to keep it for that purpose).
5.Gently run the fillets under cold water then pat them dry.
6.Combine the salt and sugar and sprinkle about half of this mixture in a glass or ceramic dish, place the fillets on top, skin-side up, then cover completely with the rest of the sugar and salt mixture.
7.Place in the fridge to cure for 24 hours.
8.The next day, remove the fish from the curing mixture, gently rinse and pat dry.
9.Place in a new, clean glass or ceramic dish.
10.Combine the lemon juice with the honey and cumin and pour this over the fish and leave to marinate for another 24 hours.
11.Remove the fish from the marinade and pat dry gently.
12.Slice the fish on a slight diagonal; you want to do this as thinly as possible and then discard the skin.
13.Dress the cured fish with a generous drizzle of very good olive oil and some crushed pink or black pepper, and another pinch of cumin.
14.Cover and leave to rest until ready for serving. (It can be kept like this for at least 3 days in the fridge.)
15.When ready to serve, toast the baguette rounds and rub each one with a fresh garlic clove before buttering them, all while the bread is still warm.
16.Place a slice of cured sea bass on top and serve immediately.

This is an edited
extract from Cinnamon
& Salt by Emiko
Davies, published by
Hardie Grant Books,
RRP $45. Available
in stores nationally.
©Emiko Davies