Mackerel en papillote (Haagse Markt day)

I learned a new cooking term today and it deserves to be included in the title – en papillote comes from French and means baking all kinds of things sealed in parchment paper or aluminium foil or some other kind of a bag, the idea being it locks the taste in. Of course, if we disregard the official name, this is a pretty standard and easy way to make fish, which I have tried a number of times. So, to quote some obscure education literature I had the honour to read not too long ago, I am “unconsciously competent” in my knowledge on preparing fish.

Today was market day! This time good old Haagse Markt – much less fancy than Leiden’s, much cheaper, much more animating and… well a universe of its own. I love going there not only for the cheap food, but for the feel as well. I like that universe.

Anyway, finally I was brave enough to buy whole fish from the stall (and not just sissy fillets). Why exactly was I afraid before, I can’t really tell, but as my cooking adventures develop, I should too. So – mackerel it is! You can already guess why…

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Look at these colours…

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And I had already tried it and I knew it was tasty (baby steps in the world of whole fish).

When you cook things in foil, you can really go crazy with what you put in together with the fish. I combined a few recipes I found online although it’s impossible to recall all sources (one was Jamie Oliver, though, just saying). I opted for garlic, carrots, tomatoes and of course lemons.

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The thinner the carrot slices, the better, because the fish cooks very quickly and the carrots might not have enough time to become nice carrots and soften up. So if you decide to cook this, make them a tiny bit thinner than on the picture.

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Scrub the fish inside and out with salt and pepper. Place the carrots in the foil first, then the fish, then tomatoes and the garlic and lemon inside.

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Sprinkle with thyme and add a splash of white wine. And when I say a splash, I mean it. I went a bit overboard with the wine, as it turned out: you don’t want the fish to boil in the lemon/wine/tomato juices, you want to steam it.

Signed, sealed, delivered in the oven for maximum 25 minutes (I think around 200C). Keep in mind that different ovens have different strengths so it is worth considering the character of your own. Meaning this could be cooked even faster.

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I will cook this tonight again, this time for two. What I am planning to do differently: use less wine (drink it instead?), replace the tomatoes with broccoli (just to see what happens, also then it’s less watery), add bay leaves (should have done that in the first place), add olive oil. And most importantly, spread sweet potato thin slices in the baking plate to go with the fish (again thanks to the market and the nice seller who mixed the halves of two 1-Euro buckets of carrots and sweet potatoes upon my request; I know, it’s that cheap).

But for our eye-feeding weekend treat, here is The original, sneaking from under the foil.

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I had to wait a while before I could safely take some top-down shots (beautiful, divine steamy smell) but not too long as I was dying to ruin the looks and get a taste.

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And tasty it was. Go wild on the vegetables and herbs you put in there. Another proud participant in my whatever-we-have-in-the-fridge inspired dish club. Recommended.

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