‘En papillote’ or ‘al cartoccio’ is my favourite method of cooking fish. Sealing everything up in a parcel allows the flavours to infuse, steaming the fish so it doesn’t dry out; instead the flesh is incredibly fragrant and juicy. There’s also minimal prep involved because it works best to leave the fish whole which is a definite plus!
1 whole black bream
1 fennel bulb
1 large golden beetroot
4 purple radishes
Salt & pepper
Coriander, roughly chopped to garnish at the end
Juice & zest of 1 lime
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
½ a sliced chilli
1 tbsp soy
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 180c.
Finely slice the fennel, golden beetroot and purple radishes. A mandoline is best for this but if you don’t have one just try to slice them as thinly as you can, using a sharp knife. Place in a bowl, toss with a splash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice and set aside – don’t throw away the squeezed lemon.
Note: if you can’t find golden beetroot, normal beetroot or candied (the bright pink sort) is also fine; the same applies for the radishes.
For the Asian dressing: grate the lime and the ginger into a bowl, deseed and finely slice the chilli into rounds (again, a mandoline is much quicker for this), add the rest of the liquids, whisk together and set aside.
You can ask your fishmonger to gut the fish for you but if not, remove the guts and wash the stomach out thoroughly under cold water. Now diagonally score both sides of the fish using a sharp knife, leaving roughly one centimetre between each score.
Rip off a large sheet of baking parchment and place your bream in the centre. Cut the previously squeezed lemon into chunks and push inside the stomach of the fish.
Now arrange the beetroot, fennel and radish salad around the fish and spoon the Asian dressing over the fish and the salad, making sure it seeps into the scores in the fish’s sides. Finish with a generous crack of salt and pepper and parcel it all up, rolling over the long sides of the parchment and twisting each end tightly shut.
Place on a tray and bake in the oven for no longer than 15minutes. While the fish is cooking you can wash and chop the coriander and prepare a side to accompany the dish. Mixed rice or boiled, lightly crushed new potatoes with some chilli oil will do the trick!
With a smaller fish, I would serve it in the parcel but because a whole black bream will usually feed two people, it’s best to remove and plate each fillet individually. The juices released from the bream act as a delicate fish sauce for the Asian dressing, completing the flavours of the dish!