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Aarón Sánchez: Grilled Snapper & Terrazas Reserva Chardonnay

Argentinian asado cooking isn’t limited to meat. Here, chef and MasterChef judge Aarón Sánchez applies the technique to grilled whole snapper—a stunning meaty fish that, together with zesty and sweet caramelized fennel and ruby red grapefruit, matches the complexity of Terrazas de los Andes Chardonnay Reserva 2017. Fruity and herbaceous with a subtle nod to the influence of oak ageing, this Argentinian white wine and the beautiful fish dish make a stunning centerpiece for any dinner party.

Makes 2 to 4 servings

3 bulbs fennel, with stalks and fronds

3 ruby red grapefruits

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon chilli flakes + a pinch chilli flakes reserved 

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

180 ml Terrazas Chardonnay

1 lemon

1 x 1.1- to 1.3-kg red snapper, cleaned and scaled

2 tablespoons Aarón’s Adobo (see recipe below)

2 tablespoons olive oil


1. Remove the stalks and fronds from the fennel and reserve. Peel off the tough outer layer from the fennel bulbs (just as you would with an onion) and discard.

2. Take two of the three fennel bulbs, cut in half lengthwise, then cut into 1-cm wedges, set aside. Split the third fennel bulb lengthwise down the centre and remove the tough core completely. Thinly shave the third fennel bulb using a mandoline and place fennel into an ice water bath to crisp (for up to 1 hour).

3. Cut the grapefruit into “supremes” (segments without any skin or pith). Cut off both ends of the grapefruit and set flat side down on a chopping board. With a sharp small knife or paring knife, cut the rind and pith off by following the shape of the fruit. This should reveal a round red piece of grapefruit. Then set the fruit on its side and cut towards the centre following each membrane until the cut meets, releasing a perfect segment. Squeeze the grapefruit segments to release all of the remaining juice into a bowl, keeping the juice and the segments separate.

4. Preheat a heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil to the pan and sear the fennel wedges from the two fennel bulbs for about 3 minutes per side or until slightly caramelised. Be careful not to crowd the pan; feel free to work in batches, if necessary. Season the fennel with salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of chilli flakes. Add the thinly sliced garlic and half of the grapefruit segments to the pan with the fennel, and sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the Terrazas Chardonnay and reserved grapefruit juice, scraping up any little bits from the bottom of the pan, and allow to reduce by half, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

5. Slice the lemon into thin round slices. Thinly slice the reserved fennel stems on the bias (diagonally) and add both the lemon and fennel stems to a small bowl. Add a pinch of chilli flakes and combine well.
Make four or five parallel 7.5-cm-long slices on each side of the snapper, almost cutting down to the bone.
Drizzle the fish inside and out with extra-virgin olive oil and season generously with salt, pepper and Aarón’s Adobo. Rub the seasoning into the cavity of the fish as well as into the slices on each side of the flesh. Stuff the cavity with the lemon and fennel stem mix.

6. Preheat an outdoor grill (or a grill pan, if indoors) to medium-high heat. Sear the fish for about 4 minutes per side, being careful not to flip it too early, as the skin needs time to sear properly or it will tear as you try to flip it. Give the skin time to let itself naturally separate from the surface of the grill before flipping. Remove the fish from heat.

7. Preheat an oven to 200C.

8. In a large casserole dish, add the caramelised fennel and grapefruit mix (from step 4) to the bottom, then place the fish on top. Drizzle the fish with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and roast for 7 to 12 minutes or until the fish has cooked through to the bone. Remove from oven.

Makes approximately 350 ml

32 g cumin seeds

32 g coriander seeds

32 g fennel seeds

32 g yellow mustard seeds

2 pasilla chillies, stemmed, seeded, de-veined, and torn into small


2 ancho chillies, stemmed, seeded, de-veined, and torn into small pieces

64 g dried whole oregano (preferably Mexican)

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 tablespoons garlic powder

32 g Spanish paprika (pimenton), preferably sweet or hot.

1. Heat a dry frying pan over medium-low heat. Pour in the cumin, coriander, fennel and mustard seeds along with the pieces of pasilla and ancho chillies. Toast, stirring constantly, until they are very aromatic and just beginning to smoke, about 3 minutes.

2. Place the mixture on a plate and let it cool to room temperature. Grind it to a fine powder in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder.

3. Put the powder in a large bowl and add the oregano, onion powder, garlic powder and paprika. Stir them really well to combine.

4. Store the adobo in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag in a cool, dark place for up to a month.