Pan-fried Cob with Tomato Risotto, Olive & Tomato Vinaigrette, & Fennel Salad

Serves 4

  • 4 portions of fresh cob (or similar non-endangered white fish)
  • 40ml olive oil for frying
  • salt

For the Risotto:

  • 200g Arborio rice
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 30ml olive oil
  • 150ml Riesling or similar dry white wine
  • 500ml fish or vegetable stock
  • 500ml tomato essence (see directions below)
  • 100g tomato fondue (see directions below)
  • 50g butter
  • juice of 1 lemon

For the Tomato Essence:

  • 500g fresh jam tomatoes, chopped
  • 250g fresh cherry tomatoes
  • 3cm piece of cucumber
  • 6cm piece of celery
  • 1 handful of basil
  • a good pinch of Maldon salt

For the Tomato Fondue:

  • 300g fresh tomatoes, skins and seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 20ml olive oil
  • sea salt

For the Fennel Salad:

  • 2 large fennel bulb s
  • 5g sea salt
  • 20ml olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 5ml chopped fennel leaf

For the Vinaigrette:

  • 30ml olive oil
  • 30ml sunflower oil
  • 20ml white wine vinegar
  • 10ml water
  • 5ml dijon mustard
  • sugar and sea salt to taste

To make the tomato essence, blend the ingredients and allow the mixture to strain through a muslin cloth or cotton tea towel into a bowl, preferably overnight.

To make the tomato fondue, gently sauté the onion in olive oil until soft but without colour. Add the garlic and cook for a further 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and salt and allow to cook slowly until the tomatoes have broken down and formed a rich chunky sauce. Most of the liquid should have reduced by now.

To make the fennel salad, finely slice the bulb on the diagonal and set aside in a bowl. Add the salt and allow to soften for about 20 minutes. Rinse in cold water, pat dry and dress with olive oil, lemon and chopped fennel leaf. Set aside.

To make the vinaigrette, blend the ingredients. Set aside.

To make the risotto, sauté the onion on medium heat in olive oil and a little salt until the onion is soft but with no colour. Add the Arborio rice and cook for a further minute until the oil has coated the rice. Pour on the wine and stir in (place your timer on 20 min at this stage). Once the wine has been absorbed, start adding the tomato essence and then the stock, ladle by ladle. Check the rice after about 16–17 minutes; it should nearly be ready. Add the tomato fondue at this stage and cook for the rest of the time on the clock. Remove it from the heat and stir in the butter and lemon juice. Check seasoning and serve at once.

To cook the fish, season the fish on both sides with salt and allow the salt to penetrate the fish for 20 minutes. Pat dry with a kitchen towel and hold at room temperature until your risotto is nearly ready. Heat a nonstick frying pan on the stove until hot, add the oil and then the fish skin side down. After 3 minutes on the skin turn it over and cook for a further 1–2 minutes. Add a knob of butter and baste the fish with this. Add a squeeze of lemon and serve at once. Add some vinaigrette to the hot pan and a handful of olives and diced tomatoes as well as some chopped parsley.

To serve, place a spoonful of risotto in the middle of each plate, top it with a piece of fish, garnish with the fennel salad and use the warm vinaigrette to encircle the fish, serve at once.

Rhine Riesling complements this dish.

To shop from a selection of South Africa’s best wines, go to

Recipe by Peter Tempelhoff, Photography Warren Heath