This week I bring you a dish which wouldn’t look out of place on any restaurant table, but is actually a breeze for you to assemble at home.
Papillote is the traditional French cooking technique which involves wrapping food in a package to steam in its own flavourful liquids, giving it an enhanced taste and smell. The food is cooked within this package, usually made from parchment paper or foil, and then served while still wrapped up so that it can be opened at the dinner table. I find it’s great for a dinner party as the unwrapping of the package adds drama to the evening, and as guests open up their little present they are hit by that magic aroma of freshly cooked fish and aromatic vegetables.
The technique of papillote is great for cooking any type of tender, mild meat or fish which takes on the character of the fresh herbs, broths or seasonings that surround it. The beauty of this technique is that once you’ve mastered it you can use it for so many dishes. It doesn’t even have to be meat or fish-based, vegetables alone work perfectly. I’ve chosen hake as it is a nice mild fish with a more subtle flavour than cod, which is enhanced by this method of cooking.
The hardest part of this recipe is perfecting the papillote. It is actually derived from the French word for butterfly, which is a hint towards how you fold it. Just make sure it is nice and tight, or you could have a real mess on your hands. That also brings me to my favourite perk of cooking papillote – the easy clean up! No hassle with scrubbing down pots and pans, just throw the paper in the bin and you are done...you can’t say I haven’t been good to you with this recipe!
Ingredients (feeds 2)
1 piece of 400g hake (scales and pin bones removed)
½ bulb of finely sliced fennel
1 carrot (peeled and finely sliced)
½ sliced celery
½ leek (finely sliced)
½ glass of your favourite white wine
a pinch of salt
Pre-heat oven to 280C. Place all the vegetables at the bottom of a circular piece of greaseproof paper.
Top with the fish and sprinkle over a little salt and the butter. Add your sliced lemon.
Fold the greaseproof paper in half, trapping all the ingredients inside.
Start folding the greaseproof paper over and continue folding all the way around. Before you make your last fold, pour in the white wine.
Seal the greaseproof paper with the last fold. Place on an oven tray and bake for 25 minutes.
Open the paper at the table, letting all the steam and juices stay inside the greaseproof bag. Simply serve with some great salad or even some soft polenta.