We are always excited to be in the kitchen and cook… for us, for other people, or even for our dog. Even making fried eggs makes me happy. However, there are some cooking sessions that stick with me for a long time and put a smile on my face. It can be for a number of reasons, like the first time I was hired to cook alone for 20 people.
This recipe is in my special list because of the way I incrementally acquired the ingredients without having planed it at all.
So the story starts with our standard, twice a week trip in to the town center which is at the port where we stock fresh fruit and vegetables from the farmers market. Depending on the weather there are sometimes, early in the morning, a few small fishing boats docked along the pier which is exactly next to the road we drive on. So when we spot them we always check them out. This time, one of them had three, nicely sized fish that we bought right away. This doesn’t happen very often because the Aegean is not like the big oceans… it’s a lot warmer and shallower and the fish mainly caught are small to medium size from sardines to red snappers. So having bought the fish along with our weekly shop, we head home.
The island we live in has an abundance of two things growing everywhere in the wild: Caper berries and fennel. Both go well with fish, but because caper berry season is over, I chose to use the fennel seeds. I cannot describe how much more fragrant the fresh un-dried seeds are compared to the store bought, and you get them in various stages of maturity… I even use some of the flowers from the fennel plant. So off I went for a walk in the fields with the dog to cut some stems, and 20 minutes later I was back with a handful of seeds. Now, all that was left was some lemons from the lemon tree. Ohh and because i was watching a Jamie Olive episode a few days before, I was a bit influenced by his obsession with chillies and added some chili infused olive oil that Lauren made.
The smell that came from that parcel was amazing, and I recommend this recipe especially to people that don’t like fish very much.
– 3 whole fish around 500gr each
– 3 tbs chili infused olive oil
– 2 tbs olive oil
– 3 tsp fennel seeds
– zest of 1 big lemon in strips (use a vegetable peeler)
– 3 tsp lemon juice
– salt & pepper
– baking parchment
1. Place one fish in a parchment paper cut big enough to wrap the fish well.
2. Cover the fish with 1 tbs of infused olive oil and salt and pepper each side of the fish.
3. Sprinkle1 tsp of fennel seeds and 2-3 strips of lemon rind on both sides of the fish and add 1 tsp of lemon juice.
4. Wrap the fish so no juices can escape and tie with baking string.
5. Repeat for the remaining 2 fish.
6. Bake in preheated oven at 220ºC for about 30 mins. Remove and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes before serving.
Tips: I dont know the right names for the fish that we usually get here so i name some in their scientific name and you can google them: oblada melanura, sparus aurata, piplodus sargus.
Dont forget to ask your fishmonger to scale and gut the fish… i love fish, but after i had to gut the ones we got for this recipe our relationship will never be the same. Having said that, even though it was a disgusting experience which I don’t want to repeat, it was nice to go through the entire natural process of preparing the fish from start to finish, rather than getting it filleted in a pretty package the easy way… easy is not always best, sometimes the experience is more important. Still, ask your fishmonger to deal with it.
……..for a full history of our recipes, check out our archives. For the more sensitive tummies, check out our gluten-free archives….. and if you’re just interested in something pretty, check out our designed page.