Grilled sea bass with fennel sauce and saffron pilau rice

Grilled sea bass with fennel sauce and saffron pilau rice
  • Serves icon Serves 4
  • Time icon Ready in 45 minutes

A rich and creamy fennel sauce is paired with delicate grilled sea bass and a stunning saffron pilau rice dish in this summery recipe.


  • 4 x 150g sea bass fillets, scales removed
  • 25g butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

For the fennel sauce

  • 600ml chicken stock
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • 2½ tsp aniseed flavoured spirit such as Pernod
  • 90ml double cream
  • 25g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small dice
  • 1 tsp chopped fennel fronds from a bulb or fresh chives

For the saffron pilau rice

  • 350g basmati rice
  • Pinch of saffron strands
  • 25g butter
  • 2 cloves
  • ½ tsp salt


  1. Make the fennel sauce. Put the stock, wine, 2 teaspoons of the Pernod and the cream into a small pan and boil rapidly until reduced by three-quarters, to about 180ml. Set aside.
  2. Make the saffron pilau rice. Wash the rice in plenty of water until the water runs clear, then cover with fresh water and soak for 7 minutes. Meanwhile, place the saffron in a small bowl, add 2 tablespoons of hot water and leave to soak. Boil the kettle.
  3. Melt the butter for the pilau rice in a medium saucepan, add the cloves and fry for a few seconds. Drain the rice well and add to the saucepan along with the saffron and its water, the salt and 600ml boiling water from the kettle. Bring to the boil, stir once, reduce the heat to low, cover and leave the rice to cook for 12 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat the grill to high. Brush the sea bass fillets on both sides with some of the melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Place the fish skin-side down on a greased baking tray.
  5. When the rice has 4 minutes to go, slide the fish under the grill, about 5cm from the heat, and grill for 3 minutes. Turn the fish over, lay a slice of lemon on top of each fillet and brush with a little more butter. Grill for a further minute until the skin is nicely browned and the fish is just cooked through.
  6. Meanwhile, bring the fennel sauce back to a simmer and whisk in the chilled butter, a small piece at a time. Season to taste and stir in the fennel fronds or chives and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of Pernod.
  7. Spoon the pilau rice onto 4 warmed plates (or you can shape it in a mould by spooning it into a tall ramekin or mini pudding basin lined with cling film) and place the sea bass fillets alongside. Spoon the fennel sauce into individual bowls to accompany the fish or pour over the fish to serve.


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