Is it time for the great rocket revival?

Once on every salad plate, try this salad leaf now with sea bream, fennel and lemon

Those who recall the glorious moment on that hot and steamy June night in 1990 in the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa, Italy, when Packie Bonner saved that penalty, may also remember that rocket and sun-dried tomatoes suddenly seemed to adorn every salad served in Irish restaurants that summer.

For the rest of the 1990s, coupled with mozzarella, that trio of ingredients appeared to define our relationship with Italian food. The most famous example I can recall was chicken breast stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella and served with a rocket salad. Nothing could have been more Italian, we thought!

Whether it was Italian or not, at least it marked the end of an era – at least in my childhood mind – of grey food and rainy days. Suddenly food was sunny and light, it pointed to faraway countries that would change the way we eat forever.

And while for many people now, rocket is far too passe a leaf to get excited about, this peppery herb always brings back good memories for me. Is it time for the great rocket revival?


How to cook sea bream with fennel, rocket and lemon

Take one whole sea bream and remove the fins with a sharp scissors. Place some fresh thyme and a garlic clove in the cavity. Score the skin with a sharp knife – this will help the fish cook more evenly. Season the whole fish with some oil and salt.

Roughly chop a fennel bulb and place on an oven tray. Pour a glass of white wine or cider over the fennel and add a little oil and salt. Add the zest and juice of a lemon and a few more sprigs of fresh thyme. Place the sea bream on top of the fennel.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the core temperature of the fish reaches 55 degrees. I like to baste the fish every five minutes as it really makes a huge difference to the final flavour. Remove the fish and allow it to rest for five minutes. Just before serving, scatter rocket over the fish.