We wrote this book to celebrate sea salt as an often misunderstood ingredient. People often fear it in any quantity, but few ingredients change dishes in the way that salt does. Hence we [the Lea-Wilson family, owners of Halen Môn sea salt] have collated some of our favourite recipes – to show how seasoning can elevate everyday classics, and be added to some more unexpected dishes.
We believe that learning to season properly is what separates a good cook from a great one. It isn’t simply a case of how much is added, but also when it is added: at the beginning of meal prep to help sun-ripened tomatoes sing; coating your meat just before cooking to help the salty char form and the meat stay juicy; or right at the end, as in this fritto misto, to offer pops of flavour with each bite.
This dish is real holiday food. The best fritto misto we can remember was served to us in Italy – paper cones filled with tender green veg and seafood, sprinkled with coarse sea salt and washed down with very cold wine. Heaven.
Anglesey salt & pepper fritto misto recipe
Depending on the season, you can mix up the veg according to your favourites – we use asparagus in late spring/early summer; courgettes in late summer; finely sliced sweet squashes in autumn; and trimmed purple-sprouting broccoli in winter. We like to serve it with garlic mayonnaise.
Serves 6 as a starter
Preparation & cooking time 35-45 mins
- 10g dried seaweed, such as kombu or dulse
- 200g courgettes, cut into 1cm rounds
- 50g curly kale leaves, torn into bite-sized pieces
- 100g green beans or asparagus spears, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 400g prepared mixed seafood, such as squid, cleaned and cut into rings; prawns, peeled and heads removed; flaky white fish, such as MSC cod, plaice or haddock, filleted and cut into 3cm chunks
- 1 litre vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- 150g plain flour
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 75g fine semolina
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp finer flaked sea salt
- ½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper, plus extra for sprinkling
- 2 medium egg whites
- 300ml sparkling water flaked sea salt
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges, to serve
1. Put the seaweed into a small bowl, cover with water and soak for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside. Pat the vegetables and seafood dry between clean tea towels. Preheat the oven to 120°C/250°F/gas ½. Line a large baking sheet with kitchen paper and sit a wire rack on top of it to drain the cooked pieces.
2. Pour the oil for deep-frying into a large saucepan, so that it comes 4cm up the sides.
3. Clip a sugar thermometer to the side of the pan and heat the oil over a medium-high heat. Meanwhile, mix both flours, semolina, baking powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Whisk the egg whites in another bowl until thick and frothy but before they form peaks. Set aside.
4. Pour the sparkling water into the flour mixture and whisk to combine, then fold through the whisked egg whites until the mixture is smooth.
5. When the oil reaches 180°C/350°F on the thermometer, drop a handful of fish, vegetables and seaweed into the batter, allowing any excess batter to drip back into the bowl. Carefully lower the coated pieces into the hot oil immediately, using a clean slotted spoon to separate the pieces to prevent clumping. Deep-fry for 4-5 minutes, turning the pieces once until crisp and golden on both sides. Lift the pieces with the slotted spoon onto the prepared wire rack and immediately sprinkle with flaked sea salt.
6. Allow the oil to come back up to temperature before repeating with the remaining coated vegetables, fish and seaweed, transferring the batches to the wire rack to drain as you go and seasoning with salt while they are hot. Keep the cooked pieces warm in the oven with the door slightly ajar while you cook the rest (this will prevent the batter going soggy).
7. Serve on a platter with the lemon wedges. Grind over some more black pepper and eat with friends and plenty of paper napkins.
Sea Salt, A Perfectly Seasoned Cookbook by the Lea-Wilson family was published in May 2022 (£26 White Lion Publishing).
Alison Lea-Wilson founded the Halen Môn sea salt company, with her husband David, in 1997. She has since created many wonderful flavours of Halen Môn and has travelled the world to sell it in such far flung places as Hong Kong, Dubai and New York. She loves nothing more than a weekend in her kitchen, cooking for people she loves.
The wines to drink with Anglesey salt & pepper fritto misto
The amount of salt you use can have a significant impact on the wine you’re drinking. In general salt (or salty foods) can make white wine taste sweeter, which may not necessarily be what you want, particularly if you’re eating seafood. It can also heighten the effect of dosage in fizz and tannins in red – though freshly ground black pepper can offset that.
In fact, despite the title, this dish is not excessively salty – it’s more about the fact it’s fried and what you add on the side by way of a dipping sauce. If you decide to accompany it with some kind of Asian dip or dressing you might be looking at something like a Grüner Veltliner or a Riesling. But for the dish on its own, I’d probably plump for fizz.
Low-dosage sparkling wine
In Venice, fritto misto would be served with Prosecco, but unless you have quite a dry example (not ‘extra dry’ which is actually sweeter in style), pick any sparkling wine with a low dosage.
Crisp, mineral whites
There are so many options. I’d be inclined to go for a Carricante from Etna, but seafood-friendly Albariño or Alvarinho would also be good, as would a Muscadet, Picpoul or Greek Assyrtiko. Basically anything crisp and dry.
By Fiona Beckett