Cooking en papillote is a great way to cook ﬁsh as steaming it inside a paper parcel keeps it moist. I like to prepare my little ‘parcels of food love’ in baking parchment tied up with string, so once brought to the table, diners can unwrap and reveal their very own surprise dish. This is a meal in itself, but you can make it more substantial by adding a handful of fresh gnocchi underneath the ﬁsh which will cook at the same time. This is a useful recipe for entertaining as you can prepare the parcels a few hours in advance, keep them chilled, then just pop them in a hot oven when you are ready to serve.
24 baby spinach leaves, destalked
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
12 ﬁne beans, stalk ends trimmed
2 preserved lemons, sliced
8 baby plum tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, ﬁnely chopped
2 hake ﬁllets (250 g/9 oz.)
2 tablespoon freshly chopped dill
A few splashes of white wine
2 small knobs/pats of butter
2 pinches of dried chilli/hot red pepper ﬂakes
A few generous pinches of freshly chopped ﬂat-leaf parsley
A few generous pinches of freshly chopped coriander/cilantro
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil, for drizzling
Bread, to serve
Two 45 x 45-cm/18 x 18-inch squares of baking parchment
Two 30-cm/12-inch lengths of butcher’s string/twine
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) Gas 6.
Lay both the baking parchment squares on a ﬂ at surface and drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil in the centre of each piece.
Keeping to a size not much larger than each of the hake ﬁllets, layer half the spinach, fennel, ﬁ ne beans, about half of the preserved lemon slices and the tomatoes on each baking parchment square. Scatter the garlic over the vegetables, letting it fall through the gaps. Season with salt and pepper. (Don’t worry if the vegetables fall about the sides a little.)
Season the hake ﬁllets all over before coating the top of each one in the chopped dill. Place each ﬁllet on top of a pile of vegetables. Splash a little white wine over the top of each one and add a drizzle of olive oil and a small knob of butter. Finally, add half of the remaining preserved lemon to each portion.
Now wrap up your parcels. Place your hands under the overhanging baking parchment and bring together above the ingredients. Tie the string/twine around the top like a shoelace.
Place the parcels on a baking sheet and cook in the preheated oven for 20 minutes (or 25 minutes if the hake ﬁllets are quite thick).
Once cooked, place each parcel on a plate and open it up by simply pulling the string/twine. Ta-da! Serve with nothing more than good bread.
Excerpted from Orexi! by Theo A. Michaels, published by Ryland Peters & Small (CAN $26.95). Photography by Mowie Kay © Ryland Peters & Small. Used with permission from the publisher.
This original recipe article first appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.