Fish of the day with rosemary

Every garden should have a bustling rosemary bush. There are few other flavourings which are always available at your back door and add so much life to so many dishes. Toss rosemary with tomatoes, soy and chilli and you’ve got hold of a true winner; cook down some cream and rosemary and you’ve got one of the simplest of simple sauces, perfect with any fish. Swap the cream for the coconut cream, and you’re in the tropics.

2 onions, chopped

1 clove garlic, sliced finely

1 walnut-sized piece of ginger, sliced finely

3 tomatoes, skinned and chopped roughly

some fish bones — snapper or John Dory if possible

2 cups water

2 cups sweet white wine — The better the wine, the better the sauce. If you haven’t sweet wine, use dry.

½ dozen sprigs of rosemary

the freshest fish in the shop, at the best price

100ml cream


50g butter

black pepper


The base of the sauce can be made well ahead, but equally, it can be made on the job if you are as ill-prepared as I usually am. Soften the onion, garlic and ginger in a little olive oil over a gentle heat — about 10 minutes. You might have to add a little water here and there.


Add the tomatoes, fish bones, water and wine, and cook gently for about half an hour, checking regularly to make sure the liquid doesn’t disappear. Add most of the rosemary and set aside to cool. The lovely oils and flavourings will give to the stock as it cools.


After an hour, strain the stock, toss in the rest of the rosemary — bar one sprig — and set aside.


Cook the fish any way you like. Steam it, fry it, bake it.


While the fish is cooking, make the sauce. Strain the stack, remove the rosemary, and add a fresh sprig. Heat a cup of the stock and whisk in the cream. Allow the mix to bubble away gently for about 5 minutes on a low heat, stirring all the while. The mixture should reduce heavily, and all the cream flavour will disappear. The sauce should reek of rosemary. Season with a little salt.


Take off the heat and whisk in the butter, taste, and adjust the seasoning.


Put the fish on a plate and pour a little sauce over the top and down the sides. Don’t drown it, just give it a little, to draw out its flavour. Turn the pepper mill over the top and give it a squeeze of lemon juice. If you have some fresh thin noodles, toss them through the sauce and serve next to the fish.

WINE: Red wine with fish — you’ve got to be joking! Try it just once. Geoff Merrill makes zingy reds with great finesse. He makes a lovely rose style, released under his Mt Hurtle label.