I’m a great lover of outdoor cookery but England isn’t the best place for it. Unfortunately we are not famous for barbecue summers. It doesn’t mean we have to miss out entirely, though. We can still have the spirit, if not exactly the experience of the barbecue in January.
In this case the oven is our friend, along with our fishmonger. You don’t have a fishmonger? Supermarkets do fantastic fish these days, not least because they have a distribution chain set up to handle it, but a good fishmonger is worth cultivating. Ours is wonderful, both in the quality of his fish and the moderation of his prices – but you have to eat what’s good. Fish is seasonal and if you’re buying it out of season the chances are it’s come a long way and won’t be as fresh.
This is a dead easy fish dish, and perfect for a busy weekend or a midweek evening. It’s very filling, though and you may want to consider sharing a fish between two.
Take the fish and wash it in cold water. Snip off the dorsal and pectoral fins with kitchen scissors. Using a sharp knife make some long slits in both sides of the fish, similar to the photo.
The problem with baking fish is that the fish will stick to whatever you bake it on and you’ll spoil the results separating it from the dish if you’re not careful, but there is a simple and economical cheat, which will preserve the integrity of your fish and make the clean up easy too. Use a non-stick baking sheet to line your baking tray. Bake-o-Glide is the main brand name here, but there are others. What you get is a brown sheet that doesn’t stick to what’s baked on it. You can cut it to size, but I don’t usually bother as long as it fits in the oven. The cost is about £6 for a sheet, but it’s entirely re-useable and very versatile. A recommended investment.
Place your non-stick sheet on the baking tray and your fish on the non-stick sheet. You can anoint the fish before cooking – in this case I have coated the fish in sesame oil, sprinkled with a little Thai fish sauce, and dressed it with some left-over tomato salsa. Let it stand while you prepare the potatoes.
The potatoes are even easier – take new or salad potatoes, wash them, slice them into quarters lengthways and put them in a large bowl. Add a little oil and sprinkle a little sea-salt. That’s it. Place them on another baking tray and arrange them skin side down so that they brown evenly. They won’t crisp like chips, but they will taste wonderful.
Put the fish and the potatoes in the oven at 180 degrees C for 40 minutes. Top and tail some beans, or prepare another vegetable of your choice. Wash and leave until about ten minutes before the fish is ready, when you can steam or boil them (steaming preserves more of the vitamins, and tastes better). At that point you can go and read the paper for half an hour, put your feet up, or finish off that chapter you’ve been working on. After 40 minutes, place on a plate and enjoy.
It isn’t quite the authentic barbecue taste, but then you’re not standing outside freezing your pants off either.