Snapper Aqua Pazza (Fish in Crazy Water)

11:00 pm on 27 August 2007

This dish really defines my preferred cooking style: super-easy but full of flavour. Originally, the Italians cooked the fish in seawater, which is where the name crazy water or ‘aqua pazza’ comes from. Today we use sparkling mineral water and salt.

You could use bream, mullet, garfish, whiting, prawns, mussels or vongole.

(Serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 4 frying-pan or plate-sized snappers
  • 12 cloves garlic confit  
  • 4 tablespoons chilli confit
  • 20 cherry tomatoes
  • 20 ligurian olives (or marinated small olives)
  • 1.5 litres (6 cups) sparkling mineral water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 24 basil leaves

Garlic Confit

  • 200 g (1 cup) peeled garlic cloves
  • 250 ml (1 cup) olive oil

Put the garlic cloves and olive oil in a saucepan, place over the lowest heat possible on your stove and cook for 2 hours until the garlic is soft (you don’t want the oil boiling, you want it just past warm). This makes the garlic beautifully soft. I like to make this with a whole 1 kg peeled garlic and 1 litre (4 cups) of olive oil. I keep the garlic in the oil in a screw-top jar in the fridge and use the flavoured oil to dress pasta, salads and seafoods.

Chilli Confit

  • 120 g (1 cup) deseeded and chopped banana chillies
  • 250 ml (1 cup) olive oil

Put the chopped banana chillies and olive oil in a saucepan, place over the lowest heat possible on your stove and cook for 2 hours until the chillies are soft (you don’t want the oil boiling, you want it just past warm).

Method

Make three cuts down to the bone on both sides of each fish and then cook each fish separately, using a quarter of the ingredients for each one. (You might want to keep the cooked fish in a warm oven as you go).

Heat a touch of olive oil in a frying pan, add the fish and cook for 3 - 4 minutes until golden on one side. Turn the fish over and add some garlic, chilli, tomatoes and olives and season with sea salt and cracked pepper. After 30 seconds add the mineral water (just enough to cover the fish), butter and basil and cook for another couple of minutes until the fish is just cooked through.

Lift out onto a serving plate and pour the sauce over the top.

John Hawkesby’s Wine Suggestions

Chardonnay

Te Mata Elston 2006
Margrain 2005
Villa Maria Riverstone
Leeuwin Estate Art Series 2006

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