Artist's Palate: David Batchelor's salt-baked sea bass

(Image credit: Zachary Zavislak)

Scottish-born artist, writer and Royal College of Art tutor David Batchelor uses colour to attack form, to break it down and dissolve it. He is best known for doing this with street-found objects (opens in new tab) that he hollows out, stacks and fills with coloured light to create installations, using the forms to interrogate the meaning of colour. The recipe he shares with us this month is by contrast monochrome and actually quite flat. He discovered salt-baked fish in Sardinia several years ago and has been trying to impress friends with it ever since. The secret is to use an awful lot of coarse sea salt, keeping it out of the fish’s cavity and trying to keep your guests sober before they eat it, as separating the crust from the fish can be tricky.

First try to get a really big fish – just to impress people with the size of the dish when you serve it. You also need a lot of coarse sea salt, freshly ground pepper, bay leaves and lemons. It’s best to mix the salt with a little water so it sticks together. Place a layer of salt, slightly bigger than the fish, on a flat baking dish. Grind pepper all over the fish and fill the cavity with bay leaves. Encase the entire fish in salt, making sure none gets in the cavity, and pat down to seal it. Cook in a hot oven for 35 mins or so. Take it out of the oven and leave for a few minutes. Then take the whole thing as it is to the table. Whack the crust with a heavy knife and carefully remove the hard salt and the skin of the fish. Serve with lemon to taste


Photography: Zachary Zavislak. Interiors: Pei-Ru Keh