Sea bream stuffed with sausage meat

Ingredients to serve 4

4 sea bream (600g each), scaled and gutted
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 good-quality pork sausages
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
16 slices of very smoky streaky bacon
olive oil

I got this idea from an old recipe for cooking freshwater perch. Back in the days when people hadn't even tried sea bream it was normal to eat more freshwater fish and it's a shame that we don't still. Pike and perch were often on the dinner table, mostly stuffed with forcemeat of some kind to make them go further. I have chosen sea bream as it is more user-friendly, but if you fancy going fishing for perch, then by all means use that instead.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Make sure that your fish are nice and clean and dry, especially in the cavity. Season the cavity well, then set the fish aside. Squeeze the sausage meat from the skins and into a bowl. Beat well to make sure that it's mixed together, then divide the meat between the fish, pushing it as deep as you can inside the cavity. The space is quite small, but you can get a surprising amount inside and the bacon will hold everything in.

Once your fish are stuffed, season them well and place a sprig of thyme on each one. Lay 4 slices of bacon out on a work surface and use the back of your knife to slightly stretch them before placing the fish, thyme side down, on top. Wrap the bacon around the fish, then turn the parcel over so that the ends of the bacon are underneath the fish (this helps to keep it on during cooking).

Place the fish on a lightly oiled baking sheet, then drizzle a little more oil over the top. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the bacon is crispy, the sausage meat is cooked and the fish falls away gently from the bone.

Taken from 'My Kind of Cooking' by Mark Sargeant (Quercus, £20).

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