King George Whiting is always expensive, always delicate in flavour, and should always be cooked gently and watchfully. It has a delicious texture and a lovely flavour. It can be cooked any way really — it is great in batter and deep-fried, as many expensive restaurants have discovered; wonderful with its skin left on and steamed; perfect baked; marvellous wrapped in foil and cooked, with tarragon, on a grill or in the oven. For all that, this is really a recipe for its partner, that under-rated vegetable, spinach.
1 bunch of spinach, cleaned of any dirt or sand
1 cup pine nuts
1 onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, sliced finely
a little ginger, chopped finely
1 cup whipping cream
1 fillet King George Whiting per person — Ask your fishmonger to bone it and skin it. It’s not hard to do yourself, but King George Whiting is rather too expensive to risk leaving delicious flesh hanging on the bones.
80g butter 1 lemon, sliced finely bunch of tarragon, leaves chopped
Steam the spinach until it has lost its stiffness and become really green. Wring it out like a washer until it is as dry as you can get it.
In a dry pan over moderate heat, toss the pine nuts until they brown. Don’t let them burn.
Gently cook the onion, garlic and ginger in a little olive oil until they soften and become translucent. Add the chillies, spinach and pine nuts, working them about the pan until well mixed.
Remove from the heat, and puree in a whizzer, slowly adding the cream through the spout. Taste, season as required with the pepper, salt and nutmeg. Set aside while you cook the whiting.
Cover the fillets with the butter (about 20g per portion), lemon slices, black pepper, salt and plenty of tarragon, wrap in foil, and cook in a 220°C oven for about 10–15 minutes depending on their thickness.
Gently re-heat the spinach mix and spoon onto a plate. Pour the sauce from the foil on top of the spinach and place the fillets gently on the side.
WINE: From parts of the McLaren Vale you can look out on the sea to where the whiting live. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could coax them in with a chilled bottle of white! The Wirra Win a winery in the Vale makes lovely whites, as does Scott Collett at Woodstock. Try their chardonnays and semillon/sauvignon blanc blends.