Rick Stein’s barbecued whole sea bass with fennel mayonnaise

This is my favourite way of cooking whole fish on a barbecue, but it can be quite tricky and you might want to try cooking it under a grill the first time round. What really works in this is the mayonnaise that’s flavoured with fennel herb as well as a splash of pastis and some chopped chives.

sea bass
James Murphy


2 x 450-500g sea bass, cleaned and trimmed of fin
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch fennel herb
2 tsp Pernod
Salt and black pepper

1 egg yolk (at room temperature)
1 tsp white wine vinegar
150ml olive oil (not extra virgin)
1⁄2 tsp Pernod
1⁄2 tbsp finely chopped fennel herb
A few chives, finely chopped

  1. Preheat a barbecue or an indoor grill.
  2. Slash each fish 3 or 4 times down each side and rub them with olive oil. Season well, inside and out, with salt and pepper, then push some of the fennel herb into the gut cavity.
  3. For the mayonnaise, put the egg yolk, vinegar and a pinch of salt into a bowl or food processor and whisk together. Start adding the oil very slowly, literally a drop at a time at first. If you go too quickly, your mayonnaise will split. Then keep adding the oil in a very slow, fine stream until the mixture is really thick. Stir in the Pernod, the chopped fennel and chives. Check the seasoning, adding more salt if required, then set aside.
  4. Barbecue the fish for 5-7 minutes. Sprinkle each with a teaspoon of Pernod, then carefully turn them over and cook for a further 5-7 minutes until they are cooked right through to the backbone. If you’re using an indoor grill you probably won’t need to turn them over, but they may take a few more minutes. Use the browned side as the presentation side.
  5. Carefully remove the fish from the barbecue or grill and serve with the mayonnaise, boiled new potatoes and a green salad.

TIP You can also make this with sea bream, red mullet, snapper or john dory.

Now buy the book

rick stein at home
Our recipes are from Rick Stein at Home by Rick Stein, to be published by BBC Books on 16 September, price £26. To pre-order a copy for £22.10 with free p&p until 19 September, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193.