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Sea bream en papillote

Cooking fish en papillote (literally translated from French as ‘in parchment’) involves wrapping it up the very tightly in parchment paper to ensure that the moisture stays in the parcel as it cooks. The wrapping process is very important as you don’t want even one bit of steam to escape! You can tell if you get it right because the parcel puffs up in the oven.

Many recipes involve using fillets of fish but there’s nothing to stop you using a whole fish, just adjust the cooking time accordingly. The fish steams as it cooks and ends up wonderfully moist and tender. It does have enough water in it to help the steaming process but it’s always good to give it a bit of a helping hand with some fish stock or white wine, as this adds to the flavour. In fact, if you do try the recipe with a fillet of fish, adjust the cooking time accordingly and put the vegetables inside the parcel – beans and cherry tomatoes work well. When doing a whole fish for 2 people you may need to cook the vegetables separately as it could be a struggle getting everything to fit.

When you cut the parcel open you’re initially treated to a burst of steam – watch your hands! – and then the wonderful smell of the delicately cooked fish. It’s so simple – just put it in the oven, sit back with a glass of wine and let the magic happen.

Sea Bream en Papillote
Serves 2
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Prep time: 20 minutes

1 sea bream (approx 500g), gutted, washed and patted dry.
8 new potatoes, sliced to the thickness of a pound coin
dash of white wine
olive oil
salt and pepper
a lemon
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
vegetables, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200c. Boil the potatoes for 6 or 7 minutes until tender but not completely cooked. Drain and leave to cool briefly whilst you prepare the fish.

Score the skin of the fish a with a sharp knife, leaving 2-3cm gaps, then season all over (inside and out) with the salt and pepper. Stuff some long slices of lemon zest and a few sprigs of rosemary inside the cavity of the fish, then do the same on top, putting the rosemary in the scored parts of the fish and laying slices of lemon on top.

Get a large piece of parchment paper and oil it slightly. Put the potatoes on the parchment in one layer so that they form a base for the fish, then place the fish on top. Wrap it up as tightly as possible leaving one end open, pour the wine in (not too much, maybe 30ml?) then seal the parcel. We got a bit paranoid with the parcel and stapled it together along the top – there’s no need to do that yourself! Place in the oven for about 30 minutes, depending on the size of your fish, until cooked through completely.

Serve on a warmed plate with the vegetables.

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Thursday evening’s dinner (I know, this is a slightly belated write up!) saw me attempt a recipe I’d been drawn to from a stunning photo on Tastespotting, an Indonesian Chicken Salad from Kayotic Kitchen and I would urge you to go and look at Kay’s wonderful photos of this dish rather than just my sorry attempt!

Indonesian Chicken Salad

I have to admit, I hadn’t properly read this recipe through before starting (I was far too distracted by the photography) and ended up getting myself into a bit of a fluster as a result. I flattened the chicken which Rob then griddled for me whilst I boiled some Jersey Royals and prepared the rest of the salad ingredients (p.s. I used tinned pineapple!). Because of our bad timing, we ended up having to run the potatoes under cold water to ensure they’d cool down in time to prevent us eating far too late! I also went wrong with the dressing, leaving out both ginger and lime. I added the ginger at the end, but somehow our lime had gone missing so we had to make do with a little lemon juice. I definitely didn’t get something right with the dressing as it was still very thick and sticky, making it really difficult to distribute through the salad which resulted in lumps of dressing in some places, none in others, and lots of mauled salad ingredients!

Taste-wise, I really enjoyed it at first, but then went off it about halfway through my portion – I couldn’t tell you why though. However, the recipe makes enough for four so I felt inclined to take some to work on Friday for lunch and then I really did enjoy it. Perhaps it was the stress of getting things wrong in preparation that took away from the flavour that first evening.

I think we will try this one again, it’s certainly a very different combination of ingredients and flavours to what we’d usually put together and makes for a very summery dish (although with all that peanut butter, I doubt it’s particularly light!).

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*stands up*. Hello, my name is Erika and… umm… I’m addicted to tuna steak. When the day comes that I’m famous enough to be invited onto Saturday Kitchen my food heaven will undoubtedly be a lovely, juicy piece of this wonderful fish (my food hell will be fresh coriander – bleurgh!). Rob decided he wanted steak tonight which, as I don’t eat beef (or lamb or pork or any other mammal for that matter), meant tuna was definitely on the menu for me.

Griddled tuna steak with sautéed Jersey Royal potatoes

Other than with salmon, I tend to like the flavour of my fish to come through, rather than have it masked in sauces or marinades and so tonight’s dinner simply required a little salt, pepper and olive oil plus a few minutes each side on the griddle. Annoyingly, when I cut into the tuna I realised I’d underestimated by a minute or so and it had turned out just a little bit rarer than I’d have liked, but better underdone than over I think!

We served our respective steaks with sautéed first-of-the-season Jersey Royal potatoes, which I feel was actually a bit of a mistake as their glorious flavour was lost in the process. We also had a side salad, but it wasn’t nearly exciting enough to deserve a photo!

Finally, can anyone explain the little bubbles that you can probably just see on my tuna?

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