Singapore’s acclaimed chef Lino Sauro has finally brought the Italian cult recipe for salt-baked fish to Sydney at Kensington Street’s Olio.

“The salt-covered cooking method for fish is more than 800 years old, first mentioned in Apicius’ cookbook De Re Coquinaria,” says Sauro. “I’ve really enjoyed reintroducing this to my guests.”

The salt shell encases the fish so it bakes at the perfect temperature and keeps moisture in. Cracking it open is a thrill in itself, so make sure you do this at the table.

Sauro has two very important and simple tips for this dish: use super-fresh fish (snapper, sea bream, sea bass, mackerel or cod fish) and always combine rock salt and fine salt for the shell.

“There are many different ways to season and pair the fish with sauces and vegetables,” Sauro says. “Personally, I prefer to cook it with a lemon slice, rosemary sprig and a garlic clove in the fish’s belly. I also like to add fennel seeds to the salt mixture. I then serve it with Sicilian extra virgin olive oil, or at the most, a fragrant salmoriglio made with olive oil, lemon juice and fresh oregano.”

Salt-Baked Snapper with Salmoriglio

Serves 2

Ingredients

Snapper
• 1.5kg fine salt
• 1.5kg rock salt
• 3 egg whites
• 200ml water
• 10g whole fennel seeds
• 1kg pink snapper
• 1 rosemary sprig
• 2 lemon slices

Salmoriglio
• 200ml extra virgin olive oil
• 100ml lemon juice
• 5g fresh oregano leaves
• 5g parsley, chopped
• Salt and pepper (to taste)

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

In a large bowl, combine the salt, egg whites, water and fennel seeds until the mixture is smooth.

With a sharp knife, make an incision in the belly of the fish and insert the lemon slices and rosemary. On a large baking tray, create a 2cm-thick salt base and then place the fish in the centre. Cover the fish with the remainder of the salt mixture. Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

To make the salmoriglio, combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk well.

At the table, lightly crack open the shell with a meat tenderiser or hammer. Peel off the salt case to reveal the fish. Serve with salmoriglio on the side.