If you’re a bit nervous about cooking fish, this is a great dish to try. Everything is cooked together en papillote (in a parcel), which seals in all the flavour and makes for an absolutely delicious result. And because the fish gently steams in the parcel, you’re not likely to overcook it. Ask your fishmonger to scale the fish.
Sea Bass en Papillote with Thai Couscous
250ml just-boiled water
1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 lime leaves, thinly shredded
2 lemongrass stalks, split lengthways
1 fresh red or green chilli, seeded and chopped
15g fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
½ tsp ground turmeric
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
225g spinach, stalks removed and leaves torn
large bunch of coriander, stalks trimmed and leaves chopped
4 sea bass fillets, scaled and pin-boned
fine sea salt
First, put the couscous in a roomy dish and pour the boiling water over it. Cover the bowl with cling film and set it aside while you prepare the stir-fry.
Heat the oil in a wok or a large heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and fry them for 2 minutes until softened but not browned. Then add the cumin, coriander, lime leaves, lemon grass, chilli, ginger, turmeric and lime juice and stir-fry for 1 minute. Stir in the fish sauce and cook for 2 minutes, then add the red pepper and cook for 3 minutes more. Finally, add the spinach and fresh coriander, then set aside.
By now, the couscous should have absorbed all the liquid. Gently fluff it up with a fork and stir in the cooked mixture, removing the lemongrass. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6.
Cut 4 pieces of baking paper measuring about?30cm square and grease them lightly with oil. Divide the couscous mixture between them, placing it on one side of each square. Place a sea bass fillet, skin side up, on top of each pile of couscous and season with salt. Fold over the paper and scrunch the edges together to make parcels – a bit like a Cornish pasty.
Place the parcels on a baking tray and bake for?about 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and the couscous is piping hot. Serve at once. (If you don’t have any baking paper, you can use foil instead, but you’ll need a double layer for each parcel.)
Extracted from Rosemary Shrager’s Cookery Course by Rosemary Shrager (BBC Books, approx €22.50). Photography by Andrew Hayes-Watkins.