Friday, 6 December 2013

In the Papers Again...

Merluzzo in Cartoccio con Couscous, Finocchio & Peperone
Parchment-Baked Cod with Couscous, Fennel & Peppers

Whilst most people are busy wrapping gifts at the moment, I got busy wrapping my supper this evening instead. Yes, the gifts are there and Christmas is drawing closer, but there is still time for that... but first and foremost this evening it was time for me to cook!

Now that I come to think of it, although I am not much of a fish fan to be honest, this would be a great idea for me to prepare for my folks back home in Sicily on Christmas Eve, where traditionally only fish is eaten. The great thing about this, asides from the fun-factor and the minimal washing up afterwards... is that all of the flavors are trapped and concentrated in the paper parcel, it is guaranteed to reach each guest piping hot and aromatic... and it is going to make you a star for the evening! And what's not to love about all of the above? Haha! 

This was super-easy to make and here are the pictures and a step-by-step explanation for you good people :-)

The first thing you are going to need is 2 circles of parchment or baking paper that are a good couple of inches larger than your plate.

The first ingredient to prepare is the couscous- simply pour twice the amount of boiling water onto the couscous, stir and let sit of 5-6 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed and the couscous fluffs up. Whilst it is still warm, add a little finely chopped parsley and season with a little salt, pepper and a hint of delicious smoked paprika powder. 

The next layer is finely sliced fennel, to which I added salt, a pinch of sugar, a sprinkle of fresh thyme and a little more of the smoked paprika- yum, yum!

Then came a couple of slices of lemon and the fish- in this case cod, but you could make this with any other fish you might prefer, or even shrimp I would imagine. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and then added the last ingredient... 

...which was a red miniature bell pepper. A couple more slices of lemon, a little lemon juice all over, a drizzle of olive oil, a scattering of fennel greens and a last sprinkle of smoked paprika and that was it- my parcel was all ready and waiting to be packed! So I turned on my oven up to full power to heat up in advance and got busy wrapping...

Of course you could simply fold the paper over and fold the ends shut in a kind-of envelop, but I decided to make mine a little prettier... plus this way it is easy to simply remove the top layer once the parcel is cooked and ready to be opened.

Sealing is simple- just imagine you are folding over the edge of a pie crust. You will find the paper tries to unfurl itself almost as soon as you have folded it- but don't despair! Twist the paper shut all the way around and then twist it again, revolving as you go, and after going around 3 times it should stay shut! 

Into a hot oven it went- at 350°F, for between 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the piece of fish you are baking- you want a high temperature to create enough steam in the parcel too cook everything nicely. And after 20 minutes of baking... the parcel came out looking like this!

When you come to unwrap your parcel- do be careful! There is a lot of steam in there and it is going to be very hot! But the aromas and fragrances of the paprika, herbs, lemon and fish that will also come billowing out are soooo good and your are going to be ready and rearing to go at it and enjoy straight away- but trust me- it will be hot, hot, hot!

Incredibly, the lemon and some of the bell pepper slices actually got scorched from the heat during steaming- which was pretty awesome as that of course also added great flavor to the already yummy dish!

I removed the top circle of paper, added a sprinkle of fresh fennel greens- and voila! One pretty plate of fish I'd say" Yummy, healthy and fun too- you've got to like that!

The other good thing about preparing this dish this way is that, let's say you are preparing it for 5 people and you have someone who doesn't like fennel... or paprika... or someone who wants to have theirs more spicy... or have other ingredients added like garlic or ginger- well- you can add or subtract ingredients individually for each person and not have the problems of trying to please 5 different people with the same dish. 

Have fun with it- write peoples names on the paper and make it into a fun event- because that is the most important ingredient of all- having fun and making your guests happy! Oh- well and being happy in the kitchen yourself! And I know you will be when you make this! Enjoy!

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