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Monday, February 28, 2011

ling en papillote

The French term en papillote refers to food baked inside a wrapping of greased parchment paper. The food item plus flavouring ingredients is tightly enclosed so the steam cannot escape. When heated the food steams in its own moisture. All the juices, flavours and aromas are held inside the paper. As the food bakes and lets off steam, the parchment puffs up into a dome shape. It’s fun to create a little drama at the table when the paper is split and peeled back to reveal the food.

I remember the many dramas played out in Leonardo’s Italian restaurant in the Kings Road, London, when they served their signature dish, pasta in a paper bag. There was always a great flurry of excitement when the parcel arrived, held high, with much shouting and laughing. Then a hushed silence filled the room, the moment of trepidation the instant before opening and then a bang as the steam exploded followed by loud boisterous cheering and clapping. Such fun!

Fish works well in paper and I can tell you how to go about all of that, no worries but as to how Leonardo cooked his pasta inside that bag is a complete mystery to me!

For each piece of fish tear off a very large piece of baking (parchment) paper and fold in half. Cut out a heart shape (see photo below). Grease the cut hearts with a little oil. Lay the paper hearts, greased side down, on the work surface.

Hot oven: 230C - fan forced 200C


4 x 200g ling fillets or any firm, white, boneless fish
1 small red pepper, julienned
1 small yellow pepper, julienned
1 small green pepper, julienned
1 small carrot, julienned
1 large thumb fresh ginger, julienned
2 whole, peeled garlic cloves, sliced
4 spring onions, julienned
1 small leek, julienned
1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, smashed then finely sliced
1 large red chili, deseeded, julienned
4 coriander roots, scraped and sliced
1 lemon slice, squeezed
dash dry white wine
dash fish stock
(50g butter to monter – diced, cold from the fridge - optional)
Sea Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste

Mix all the above ingredients together. You might find there are too many vegetables so use discretion – a little looks better than a lot. Use the leftovers for something else.
  1. Place the fish fillets on one side of each heart. Add the topping and seasoning.
  2. Fold over the other half of the heart. Starting at the top of the fold, make a small crimp in the edges (like making a Cornish pasty).
  3. Continue crimping around the edge. Each crimp holds the previous one in place.
  4. Just before the end pour in a dash of white wine and a dash of fish stock.
  5. Crimp the last bit and fold the point under to hold it in place. The papillotes are now ready for cooking.
  6. Place the folded parcels in a large sauté pan (hob to oven). Set the pan on a medium heat and as soon as the paper begins to puff out, place them in the oven. Bake until completely puffed and browned, about 12-15 minutes.
  7. Serve immediately at the table in front of each guest.
The parcels contain the moisture released from the fish, wine, stock, lemon juice etc… and this is okay to serve as is but you might like to turn this liquid into a proper sauce. In which case, very carefully open each parcel and pour off the contents into a small saucepan. Bring the liquid up to boil point and whisk in the diced, cold butter piece by piece until you have a glossy, thickened sauce. This procedure to finish a sauce is known as: monter au beurre. Carefully pour the sauce back into the parcels (down the sides of the fish, not over the top) and re-close the openings. Or serve the sauce on the side.

ling en papillote printable version, click here:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

bocconcini tapas!

In Italy, 'bocconcini means 'mouthful' - referring not to size or the small nuggets of mozzarella as we know them, but to the appetising appeal of the dish it relates to! Don't be confused if you see bocconcini di vitello alla crema or bocconcini fiorentina or something similar on a menu or in a recipe book. 

Baby mozzarella nuggets are universally known as bocconcini in addition to the above and here my 'tapas' are part Italian, the base being tartines and part Spanish, the topping being jamon serrano. And, purely because they are small tasty morsels to serve with drinks and we like to call things like that, tapas!

Easy to make, as follows:

Lightly toast a few slices of soft, fresh white bread and cut out circles with a small pastry cutter.

Butter each tartine to avoid the bread going soggy.

On each one place a piece of jamon serrano or prosciutto, a sun dried tomato and a nugget of mozzarella and secure the toppings with a cocktail stick. I like to use large sticks - they look more dramatic and are easy to hold!

A little chopped parsley and a squeeze of caramelised balsamic vinegar completes the dish.

Bocconcini Tapas printable recipe, click here:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

mushroom soup

the mighty mushroom lends itself to many dishes and is particularly wonderful as a soup

I like to use a variety of mushrooms for this dish but if you have access to just one variety that's okay, too. The addition of rice is optional here but helps in the thickening process and the cream gives it a lovely smooth velvety texture. Make a statement: create an island in the centre of each bowl with a little mound of cooked spinach topped with a cooked quail leg and carefully spoon the soup around the outside. Eat the quail leg in the fingers and spoon the spinach through the thick soup. Serves: 4


500g mushrooms
2 medium onions, chopped
50g butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
1L chicken stock
1-tablespoon long grain rice
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons thick cream


Wipe the mushrooms carefully to remove any grit or soil. Cut the stalks level with the mushroom caps and chop them up. Peel the mushrooms, save the peel and slice the mushrooms thinly. Set aside.

Place 25g butter in a saucepan, add the mushrooms, peelings, stalks and chopped onion and cover with a cartouche (a piece of baking paper cut into a circle to fit the saucepan size). Press the cartouche down over the mushrooms and place the lid back on the saucepan. Cook on a low heat for five minutes, shaking the pan every now and then. Remove from the heat and discard the cartouche. Add the remaining 25g butter, sprinkle the flour over the top and stir to blend in. Add the stock, season and stir until boiling. Add the rice and the bay leaf, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, add the cream and blend the soup until you have a smooth, rich finish. Serve immediately.

mushroom soup printable recipe: