Fish in a Bag

Jamie Oliver’s simple yet oh so delicious recipe was introduced to me by my brother actually way back in 2003 or 2004 and I instantly fell in love with it.

Back home, I decided I wanted to try my hand at it and went about procuring all the ingredients. Realization dawned rather painfully that I had taken for granted that I would find all the ingredients I was looking for easily. Pune made it hard! Back then anyway.
So instead of John Dory I had to settle for Basa (yeah I know, right?). The cherry tomatoes just were not up to the mark so had to settle for chopping up our normal tomatoes. Fresh Basil was impossible to find. So used Tulsi leaves from a friends garden. No black olives so used green. Okay so nothing earth shattering but when one is trying to replicate a dish, at the very least the same ingredients should be at hand.

Fish in a Bag – from Jamie’s Website

Oh by the way, this recipe is in Jamie’s book – The Naked Chef. The recipe of fish in a bag on his website is a little different. I did find the book recipe online here. This is a really good book and I definitely recommend having at hand in your kitchen at all times.

The recipe was easy enough to follow and I got some friends over and made an evening of it. I was the toast of the evening until I revealed that I had followed a recipe. They were all yeah we can do that too. Strangely none of the buggers have cooked me anything. Ever. Not even following a recipe. 
An attempt with Broccoli

Over the years, as I became more confident with seafood cooking, I tried to play around with the flavours and using different fish. A few things that stood out for me as a learning were:

  1. Cooking times vary based on density of the fish meat and the thickness of fillet. As a rule dense fish, thick fillets are best slow cooked for a longer time frame as it allows the heat travel through the entire fish and yet does not overcook the outside or the thin edges of the fish.
  2. This also has a direct bearing on the cooking temperature of different fish. It was not as simple as saying if the temp is high then cook it for a short while or vice versa. The learning process was enjoyable since I got to eat all this fish, but also demanding on the pocket because there were times when the fish would be completely destroyed because of wrong temperatures or over-cooking.
  3. This is a recipe designed for a mild flavoured fish. I was trying all kinds of fish in this method. And sometimes I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome when I’d used a strongly flavoured fish like say Surmai or Rawas and then sometimes very disappointed when mild flavoured fish would just not take in any flavours at all.
Cooking with wine has it’s benefits as it adds a little zing to your dish, keeps the fish moist and lends the sauce volume without watering down the flavours. And yes, I used both red and white wine – no never together – and both work depending on the fish you choose and the condiments you use.
Here is my Basa recipe, simple and delicious. And yes I know its Basa but there is nothing actually wrong with this fish. Yes it lacks in texture and any flavour of its own, but then it takes on any flavour you want to give it and when you’re experimenting its easy on the pocket too. Being completely boneless helps too.
Ingredients (serves 2)
  • Basa 2 Fillets (about 250 gms each)
  • Butter 2 tbsp
  • Garlic 4 cloves, chopped fine
  • Lemon Juice 2 tsp
  • Fresh Red Chili, 2 small pieces, chopped fine
  • Basil 6 leaves, roughly torn
  • Cherry Tomatoes 4 pieces, halved
  • Capers 2 tsp, drained
  • Green Olives, 6, sliced thin
  • Sun-dried Tomatoes, 4, drained
  • Olive Oil, 2 tbsp
  • Dry White Wine, 300ml
  • Salt and Pepper (freshly ground) to taste
  • Lots of Aluminium Foil
  1. Layout down the aluminium foil, about twice the length of a single basa fillet with about 2 inches extra.
  2. Use one tbsp of oil to brush on half of the aluminium foil.
  3. Rub some salt and pepper on one side of the Basa Fillet and lay it on the oiled half of the foil, salted side down.
  4. Use half all the ingredients and scatter them over the fillet and place 1 tbsp of butter on top of the fillet in the center.
  5. Sprinkle 1 tsp of the lemon juice and some salt and pepper to taste over the fillet
  6. Now gently fold over the other half of the foil to cover the fish completely and seal the sides by folding over the foil., leaving only the top side open.
  7. Repeat the process with the other fillet and very gently put both in to the fridge for about 30mins.
  8. Preheat the oven 200°C.
  9. Remove the foil bags from the fridge, gently add the white wine to the bags, half each, from the open end and then seal the bags.
  10. Place these in the center of the oven and let them cook for 12 minutes.
  11. Remove and let them rest for 3-4 minutes, place on plates and serve.
  12. Crack open the bag from the top. Be careful when cracking open the bag as it will be full of steam and you could be burned.
Bon Appétit

Bijal Patel, Fishvish Co-founder

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