Steamed sea bass with crab, basil and tomato dressing recipe

My partner Emma works in restaurants and so she has the equal cynical, black-humored view of pressured romanticism as I do. I invented and named this dish after her: we jokingly name it “sea bass à lemma”. I came up with it in 2001, when she became celebrating her birthday in the pub with a collection of her friends.

Steamed sea bass with crab, basil and tomato dressing recipe
Steamed sea bass with crab, basil and tomato dressing recipe


  • 2 fillets of sea bass – order in advance from your fishmonger and ask for large center fillets weighing about 200g each
  • 50ml top-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large cooked crab claw, meat picked from it
  • 100g best-quality cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • Juice of 1 lime, added to taste
  • 6 large basil leaves, sliced into thin strips just before adding to the dressing


  1. Season the sea bass fillets and wrap tightly in cling film. Keep them in the fridge until needed.
  2. Set up a steamer by setting a colander over a large saucepan. Put a plate inside the colander. Have a lid that will fit the top of the colander (or improvise with a tin foil lid). Add about 5cm of water to the pan and bring to the boil.
  3. With the water at a simmer, plate the sea bass fillets on the plate and cover the colander with a lid. The fish should take five to eight minutes to cook, depending on the thickness. It is done when the internal temperature reaches 55C and the flesh is no longer translucent. Remove the fillets to a warm plate and cover with cling film.
  4. Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a small pan, but don’t let it boil. Add the crab­­meat, tomatoes and a good pinch of salt and gently warm it through. Add the lime juice gradually, tasting as you go – you might not need it all.
  5. Season and taste for balance. Just before serving, add the finely sliced basil to the dressing.
  6. Unwrap the bass fillets and plate them up, serving with the crab dressing spooned generously over them.
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