April 30, 2012

Whole Baked Fish with Herbs and Caramelized Lemons

This is such a clever and healthy way of cooking fish, where the delicate flavour is enhanced beautifully by oven-steaming on a bed of herbs and rounded off with slices of caramelized lemon. Gordon Ramsay's "Sunday Lunch" uses salmon which works best, but feel free to substitute in whatever fresh fish you can get your hands on.

Serves 6-8:
- 1 whole fish, about 1.6kg, scaled, gutted and washed
- Olive oil, for cooking and to drizzle
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- Few sprigs each of rosemary, thyme, basil, sage and parsley (any mixture of soft and hard herbs will do)
- 1 head of garlic (unpeeled), halved horizontally, then broken into cloves
- 2-3 lemongrass stalks, split in half lengthways and bruised with the back of a knife
- 2 lemons, thickly sliced
- 5-6 star anise
- 1 tsp mixed (or black) peppercorns

Preheat oven to 190°C. Trim a little off the tail and fins of the fish with kitchen scissors and pat dry with kitchen paper. Pat the cavity dry as well. Score the skin of the fish on both sides with a sharp knife, at 1-2cm intervals. Rub all over with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Tear two sheets of foil, large enough to envelope the fish easily. Lay one on top of the other on the work surface and scatter the bay leaves, herb sprigs, garlic and lemon grass over the middle of the foil. Lay the fish on the bed of herbs and tuck some of the flavourings into the cavity.

Fry the lemon slices in a little olive oil for 2-3 minutes until caramelized around the edges, seasoning them with salt and pepper. Allow to cool slightly. Tuck the lemon slices around the fish, placing some in the cavity and some on top. Scatter the star anise and peppercorns over and around the fish, putting some inside the cavity too. Drizzle with a little olive oil.

Fold the edges of the foil tightly together over the fish to seal, leaving some space in the parcel for steam to surround and cook the fish. Put the fish parcel in a roasting tin and cook in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Remove from the oven and without unwrapping the foil parcel, rest the fish for 5-10 minutes.

Unwrap the fish and if using salmon, peel off the skin with a palette knife. Use the back of a spoon to gently slide the fish off the bone. Serve individual portions garnished with the caramelized lemons.

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