Fish al Cartoccio

Chinese New Year is approaching and you can definitely feel a seafood fever in the air when you go to the local wet markets in Singapore. Far from boasting any authority on the matter – I’ll leave this to the Chinese household of Blender&Basil – I’ll limit myself to show you how I cook fish, which is a rather common method used in Italy. The method is called al cartoccio, and it consists of cooking a whole fish (a sea bass, a sea bream, or like in this case, a mackerel) with its own steam inside a parcel made of aluminium foil. As you can see below, I made two fish with different ingredients, first of all to show you how flexible this recipe is, and secondly because my hubby doesn’t like lemon! As a side, I improvised a dish of courgettes with pine nuts and saffron – I hope you’ll like the idea!

For the fish:

2 whole fish
2 cloves of garlic
2 slices of lemon
2 slices of sundried tomato
Fresh parsley
Fresh or dry thyme
Tarragon leaves
Half a glass of white wine
Salt & pepper

For the side dish:
1 courgette
1 small onion
2 thin slices of guanciale (you can use pancetta or bacon in alternative)
1 pinch of saffron
1 tbsp pine nuts
Salt & pepper

Step 1 – Make sure your mackerels are accurately clean, by rinsing them under running water and checking that all the insides have been removed. Then dry them and place them on a plate.


Step 2 – Slice the garlic and have the rest of the ingredients at hand. Place one mackerel on a sheet of aluminium paper and start by rubbing generous salt & pepper on both inside and outside. Then add the ingredients into the fish inner cut: place the garlic and one slice of sun dried tomato, a generous sprinkle of thyme and some extra virgin olive oil. Then sprinkle thyme over the outside of the fish, lock the other slice of sun dried tomato under the gill and splash with some extra virgin olive oil.

Fold the aluminium paper so you create a parcel, leaving it open slightly on the top. From that opening, you should be able to splash some white wine without making too much of a mess. After that, close the parcel and place it on an oven tray.

Step 3 – Repeat the process with the second fish, either with the same ingredients or with the ones I used: instead of sundried tomato use the lemon, and instead of thyme, sprinkle a good amount of refreshing tarragon. Everything else was exactly the same – don’t forget the wine before sealing your parcel! You can now place both parcels in the oven, at 180° for 20 minutes.

Step 4 – While the fish is in the oven, you have the time to prepare your courgette side dish. Slice your courgettes into very fine slices, using a peeler. Chop the guanciale and the onion finely. And put three tablespoons of water to boil.

Step 5 – In a frying pan, fry the guanciale and the onion with a teaspoon of olive oil. Let it fry until the guanciale is crispy and the onion is soft – you can skip this step to make this tasty side dish completely vegetarian. Then add the courgettes, salt and pepper, and let them cook for around ten minutes, tossing them every now and then. If you like them soft, feel free to let them cook for longer. I personally like it when they still have a crunch, especially when they are so finely sliced.

Step 6 – In a small frying pan, toast some pine nuts for a couple of minutes until nice and golden. Place the hot water into a glass or crockery cream jug and add the saffron, mixing with a teaspoon until it’s completely dissolved.

Step 7 – Add the saffron sauce to your courgettes, mix well and sprinkle the pine nuts on the top before serving. By now, your fish should also be out of the oven and ready to serve. Such a fun quick dinner, let us know if you try it!


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