Monday 18 March 2013


We abstain from eating meat on the Fridays of Lent. Abstinence, like fasting is supposed to be an act of sacrifice. 

Not meaning to defeat the purpose, I always line up a few meatless dishes to cook in the holy week. 

Puttanesca is the irreverently named Italian sauce that is so popular because it is so easy to make and incredibly delicious. The word puttanesca translates to an unsavoury meaning which is whore (pardon me) and there is a sensible explanation as to why this is called so. It is a quick and easy to make sauce made by the 'working girls', ideal for minimum interruption of their work schedule. They were also too busy to shop so made do with long shelf life store cupboard standbys such as the ingredients in this sauce. 

The clever mix of a few choice ingredients result to a sauce that is so exciting and flavourful. The anchovies give an umami rich saltiness to the sauce while the olives and capers add a briny tang to it. The mellow sweet taste of the tomato sauce is accented by chilli flakes.  It is delicious on pasta and equally so on fish. I used sea bass but any white fish will do. 

I know that frying fish is a lot of people's nightmares (count me in) but fried fish is definitely one of the most delicious food one can ever eat. Frying fish without batter nor flour crisps up the skin and brings out the best of its flavour. 

To be on the safe side, make sure that you pat the fish dry with kitchen paper before you put it in the oil to avoid spattering. To keep the skin intact, do not turn until the first side is fully cooked and crisped. To prevent the skin from sticking, a tip my grandma taught me is to heat up the pan first, throw in a spoonful of coarse salt and rub in with a kitchen paper. Discard the salt before adding in the oil.

Instead of the usual tomato puree (tomato paste), I used fresh vine ripened tomatoes for added sweetness and fresh flavour. I kept the sauce rather chunky so that each ingredient's taste will come through. This dish can be served with rice, potatoes or pasta to make an enjoyable meal...for anyone.


1 large sea bass
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 c. cooking oil
3 tbsps. extra virgin olive oil
2 anchovy (in oil) fillets, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped (1 tbsp.)
3/4 c. diced fresh vine ripened tomatoes
8 pimiento stuffed olives sliced
1 tbsp. drained capers
2 tbsps. of Marsala or sherry
1/2 tsp. dried chilli flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. brown sugar
about 1 tbsp. of chopped parsley


Make shallow cuts on both sides of the sea bass. Season with the sea salt. set aside.

Heat up a sauté pan. Add the olive oil. When hot add the anchovy fillets and stir for about 2 minutes until it begins to melt into the oil. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the parsley. Stir and simmer for about 10 minutes just until the tomatoes soften. Take off the heat.

Pat the fish dry. Heat up a frying pan and add the cooking oil. Put in the fish and fry until browned and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes on each side.

Transfer to a serving plate, top with the sauce and sprinkle with parsley.

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