This way of cooking fish is something I learnt at Melisses, where we made it almost every week. I brought it home to Sardinia as a way of making the most of the large and unruly fig tree that overshadows the entirety of my tiny garden.
It is one of the best (and undeniably most romantic) methods of cooking fish that I have ever come across. Wrapping the fish in their green scented jackets imparts the flesh with a beautiful grassy-coconut flavour and also creates a humid environment so the flesh steam-cooks and the finished fish has a texture so melting it’s almost transcendental. Eat in the shade of a fig tree for full effect.
You can stuff the cavity with herbs of your choice, garlic or lemon. If the fish is wonderfully fresh I usually just keep things simple and use salt as the only flavouring aside from the fig leaf itself.
I like to serve this with some simply boiled potatoes and a green salad, or with the green bean salad to follow.
2 small/medium fish ( a portion each) or 1 large (bream, sea bass and mullet – either red or grey - are all good options)
4 or 5 medium- large fig leaves
Herbs & lemon if you wish
Extra Virgin Olive Oil to Serve
Clean, gut and descale the fish (you can ask your fishmonger to do this for you, or buy your fish ready cleaned). Season them well all over with some sea salt.
Wrap them in the fig leaves, tucking them up so that the flesh is covered (don’t worry too much about making them perfectly tight and neat parcels, the important thing is to create a closed environment so that the flesh is essentially steaming rather than roasting).
Preheat the oven to 180.
Place the fish on a baking tray and cook for anywhere between 20-40 minutes, depending on size. My small, single-portion bream take 20 minutes. A good way of knowing when they are done is looking at the eye. If it is milky white and opaque the fish is probably done. Open one gently and check the fillet if you are still unsure. It should be white and milky opaque the whole way through, with no pink or grey areas.
Serve, as they are, with a side dish of your choice and extra virgin olive oil for drizzling.
Green Bean Salad with Roasted Tomato Dressing, Olives and Red Onion
This is an adaptation on a Joe Woodhouse recipe. His new book, Your Daily Veg is a brilliantly useful collection of vegetarian dishes that I cannot recommend highly enough. The photos are beautiful and the recipes faultless and achievable. I want to eat everything in it.
250g green beans
Half a red onion (tropea is a nice, sweet and not-overpowering variety)
200g tomatoes (either larger, ripped into chunks or small datterini)
2 whole cloves of garlic, smashed under a knife blade
A handful of olives
Salt to taste
A handful of basil
Around 6 tbsp of olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Preheat the oven to 170. Arrange the tomatoes in a baking tray, sprinkle over salt and the vinegar and around half of the oil. Add the whole, slightly smashed garlic cloves.
Place in the oven and roast for around 30-40 minutes, until bursting and burnished. (you can make these ahead and keep them in a fridge for a few days, if you like).
Once you have the tomatoes ready, blanch the beans in boiling salted water for a few minutes until just done. They should be tender but still with a little bite.
Plunge them into some cold water to stop them cooking. Drain them and dry them well before tossing them through the tomatoes. Add the extra oil and salt to taste.
Spread them on a serving dish.
Finely slice the onions and scatter them over along with the torn basil and the olives. Serve, drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil.