Wash the herbs and spread them out across a clean kitchen towel to dry.
If you have saffron strands grind them in a pestle and mortar or in a saffron mill. Alternatively you could use the bottom of a glass and a plate to crush them.
Transfer the ice cubes to a glass and sprinkle the ground saffron over it. Keep the glass aside in a warm place.
Once your fish is clean, meaning it’s gutted, washed and all the scales are removed, make a few cuts in both sides so it can absorb more of the spices. Season both sides and the inside with turmeric, paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, and salt.
If you are seasoning the fish ahead of time, you can slice a lemon or bitter orange and lay the slices on top and inside the cavity of the sea bass. Cover it and put it in the fridge until you’re ready to cook it.
Finely chop the herbs and combine them in a bowl. If using dried fenugreek, combine it with the herb mix now.
Peel and finely chop or slice the garlic, the choice it yours. Add it to the herb mixture and combine it well.
Wash the rice by moving it around with your hand in a bowl of water and then draining it. Repeat this process 4 to 5 times.
Fill a pot with water and bring it to boil. Add the 2 tbsp of salt to the water. Don’t worry about it being too much. Any excess will be rinsed off later. Once the water is boiling add the rice to it.
After 3 carefully remove a rice corn with a spoon to see if it is parboiled. You can split the rice corn and look at it. The outside should be soft and translucent but the centre should still be firm and opaque.
It may take anything from 3 to 10 minutes to parboil the rice to this stage. Check on it every minute or so and be sure to keep an eye on the time, so next time you’ll know how long this particular rice brand takes to parboil.
Once ready drain the rice in a colander and rinse it with cool water to wash off the excess salt and interrupt the cooking process.
Add 3 tbsp of vegetable oil to a non-stick pot with lid and turn the heat on medium. Transfer a quarter of the parboiled rice to a bowl and combine it with a quarter of the herb mixture and the saffron water.
Once the rice turned evenly yellow and the herbs and garlic are evenly distributed, transfer the saffron-herb-rice to the pot and spread it out evenly. Don’t mix it inside the pot, as the oil should remain in the bottom of the pot if possible.
Now add a layer of white rice on top and then sprinkle a small handful of herbs on top. Repeat this process, creating several layers until all the ingredients are used up.
Poke three holes in the rice with the other side of a wooden spoon. This will allow the steam to rise more easily. Pour 2 tbsp of water over the rice. Line the lid with a clean kitchen towel, so more moisture can be absorbed.
Once you see steam rising from the pot, firmly cover it with the lid and reduce the temperature to something between low and medium. Let the rice steam for 45 minutes.
Once the rice has been steaming for about 30min put a large frying pan on high heat and add the vegetable oil. You can test if the oil is hot enough by holding your wooden spoon in. If bubbles build around the spoon the oil is hot enough to fry the fish.
Carefully transfer the fish into the pan and fry until it has the desired colour and crispiness, then turn it around. My medium sized sea bass takes about 5 minutes on each side but the time may vary depending on the size of the fish.
Replace the lid with an upside down plate and carefully flip the rice over. If you have a non-stick pot, it will come out easily. If you don’t have a non-stick pot, you can fill your kitchen sink with a bit of cool water and submerge the bottom of the pot in it. This may help the tahdig (crispy rice bits) to come off.
Serve your fish with the herb and garlic rice, fresh bitter oranges or lemons and pickled garlic. Enjoy!