I was fortunate enough to be invited as a guest on Wandsworth Radio by the bubbly Emma Gordon aka Mrs Stylist. She also runs a great instagram feed brightening up each day with styling inspiration and pops of colour. As well as working as a stylist she also hosts the ‘Wandsworth Workday’ slot every Tuesday from 1-4pm. She wanted me to come and talk all things food and blogging with her and her audience.
Before you ask, no I am not wearing an Ascot creation hat. I know it looks that way but really it’s the logo of the Wandsworth radio and my sunnies (it gets mighty bright in the studio) !!
During the course of the afternoon we covered a number of topics, but one thing that came up was how to cater for friends and family who really can’t handle spice. My answer was to go along the herb route by serving guests ‘en papillote’ style, which basically means ‘in parchment’.
It is a fabulous, fuss free way to cook fish as you make individual parcels and then pop them in the oven for 20 minutes or so. Within each parcel you have a complete meal in a little ‘present’ which guests can open up themselves on their plates. It’s super simple and other than compiling the parcels before guests arrive, you really don’t need to do too much, thus freeing you up to enjoy your guests company.
You really don’t need that many ingredients. The only ones that I have not included in this shot are a small knob of butter and a splash of white wine.
You can use whatever fish you like, but typically I use seabass, bream, cod, trout and salmon – just make sure it is MSC certified. You can also have the fish filleted or kept whole, both ways work equally well, although the latter requires more ‘work’ for your guests.
When you wrap the fish you need to make sure that you keep an air space within it – so don’t wrap it too tightly. The smells when you open your parcel are wonderful and very reminiscent of the flavours of the mediterranean.
The taste of the whole dish is sweet from the tomatoes and basil, salty from the olives, zingy from the lemons and the flesh of the fish just falls apart. It really is a whole meal in a parcel.
Mediterranean Fish En Papillote
serves 1 (simply x by how many you are serving)
2 or 3 slices of a large potato, thinly slice lengthways
small knob of butter, optional
pinch black pepper
200g fish (white or pink filleted or unfilleted works well – this time I used cod)
2 or 3 thin slices of lemon
1 vine of cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp of pitted black Kalamata olives
5 fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees centigrade if you are using fan or 20 degrees higher if you are not.
- Place the thinly sliced potatoes in a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes and then drain and dry completely. Place to one side.
- Tear off some baking parchment at least three times larger than the length of your fish.
- Place a couple of thinly sliced potatoes in the middle of baking parchment.
- Place a small knob of butter (optional) and a sprinkling of salt and pepper and then lay the fish on top.
- Next lay some thinly sliced lemons on top of the fish followed by the vine of cherry tomatoes.
- Place the olives over and around the fish.
- Add the fresh basil leaves and sprinkle a little more salt and pepper and add the white wine on top.
- To seal the fish ‘en papillote’ you simply need to bring up the top and bottom pieces of baking parchment and fold them over a couple of times, making sure that there is a nice air vacuum between the fish and the baking parchment. At either end fold over as if you are wrapping a present and then tuck each end underneath the fish.
- Place in the centre of the oven for 22 minutes, by which time the fish will be soft and flakey and the potatoes will be equally soft.
- Serve immediately. Place one ‘en papillote’ on each plate and allow your guests to unwrap their present.
- You do not need to add butter, you can simply add the white wine and extra virgin olive oil
- Sometimes I omit the boiling first of the potatoes, but I think to be on the safe side it is best to boil the potatoes for 5 minutes first so that they soften at the same time as the fish.
- You can also add thinly sliced red onions if you fancy.
- Adding asparagus is also another great option
- Thyme or lemon thyme also works well for this dish if you don’t have basil to hand
I would love to hear how you get on. What personal twists do you add to this dish?