Baked

Baked

By
Nathan Outlaw
Contains
6 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781849493727
Photographer
David Loftus

There are several different ways of baking fish, from simply roasting it whole on the bone – dotted with butter and herbs – to cooking it in a tart or pie. It’s important to protect the fish from the dry heat of the oven but there are lots of ways of doing this. If you are baking a whole fish, leave it on the bone with the skin on and baste it with melted butter or oil a few times during cooking to keep it moist. In a pie, the fish is kept succulent within a sauce under the pastry or mashed potato crust.

We naturally think of baking as an oven method, but fish can also be baked using hot ashes, hot stones and wood-burning ovens, as it was in times past. Baking is very closely related to barbecuing. As far back as the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, brick or stone built ovens and smoke pits were used, which are similar to using a barbecue. Even then, it was understood that the fish needed protection from the heat and it was often wrapped in leaves or seaweed, or baked in a salt or dough crust.

We still use these techniques today. Baking in a salt crust is a great way to cook whole bass or bream. You simply enclose the fish in a thick layer of salt and spray it with water before it goes in the oven. The salt forms a crust, which seals in the fish, keeping in its flavour and moisture. The crust is broken and removed before serving. Cooking fish such as salmon and sea trout en croûte (in pastry) also works well.

One of the simplest ways to protect fish – whole or fillets – is to wrap them in foil with a little liquid, such as wine, some herbs and a few aromatics, like onion and garlic. Effectively the fish steams in the sealed package and stays deliciously moist.

Similarly fish fillets can be cooked en papillote – in baking parchment or greaseproof paper parcels. This is a really nice way to bake fish, using different herbs, liquids and vegetables in the bag with the fish. When I cook fish this way I open the parcels at the table so guests can savour all the delicious aromas as they are released. A little bit of culinary theatre!

And where would we be without the all-time classic fish pie? It can take leftover fish and shellfish, or it can be made with a medley of luxury seafood. A huge fish pie is a great choice for a party, not least because it is quite forgiving. Bathed in its sauce, the fish won’t dry out if you leave the pie to stand for a short while. A true vehicle for flavour!

Best seafood for baking

Scallops (in the shell), bass, bream and grey mullet (in a salt crust), turbot (in the bag), plaice, stuffed trout, lobster, all sorts in pies.

Accompaniments and garnishes

Green sauce, tomato ketchup, classic parsley sauce, tarragon and anchovy butter, seaweed butter, beetroot and watercress salad.

Recipes in this Chapter

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