Salt-Crust Baked Whole Fish with Lemon and Thyme

Here’s an idea for your next fishing trip where you have (hopefully) caught a big, handsome fish- bake it in a salt-crust with fresh lemon and thyme!

The beauty of making a salt crust is that it will not only season the fish, but will seal in the moisture, keeping the flesh succulent and tender.  The belly is stuffed with fresh lemon, thyme and bay leaves to impart a wonderful aroma and to eliminate any fishiness. To add even more fragrance, the salt crust is mixed with fresh lemon zest, dried oregano and thyme!

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Simply served drizzled with some olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon and some black pepper, this makes one wonderful meal to be shared with family and friends! Just one word of warning: beware of the amazing flavour explosion when you break open the crust!

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Ingredients

For the fish:

  • 1 fresh whole fish, gutted
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 dried bay leaf

For the salt-crust:

  • Salt, enough to cover the fish entirely
  • Zest of 3 lemons
  • 2-3 tsp dried oregano
  • 2-3 tsp dried thyme

For the dressing:

  • Juice of one lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
  2. Prepare the fish: Stuff the belly of the fish with the lemon slices, bay leaf and fresh thyme. Wrap the tail and head with some foil.
  3. Prepare the salt crust: Mix the lemon zest, dried thyme and oregano with the salt. Add enough water to the salt so that is begins to clump together.
  4. Cover a baking tray large enough to fit the fish with foil. Lay a layer of the salt mixture in the bottom of the tray. Place the fish on top and cover the fish with the rest of the salt mixture, patting down with your hands so that the body of the fish is covered entirely with the salt. Wrap the head and tail of the fish with foil to keep it from burning.
  5. Bake until the fish is cooked (times will vary depending on the size of the fish). Once done leave it to cool for 5 minutes.
  6. Prepare the dressing: Mix together the lemon juice, olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  7. To serve, break open and discard the salt crust. Remove the skin of the fish as it may be too salty. Drizzle over the dressing and serve immediately!
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Spanish Surf & Turf

This is not your usual surf and turf- who says that is must be steak and prawns? Let me take you to Spain with my special twist: mussels and meatballs in saffron sauce!

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Plump, juicy mussels and moist, flavoursome pork meatballs are en-robed in a golden saffron sauce. The sauce is rich with the flavour of the sea and the meatiness of the pork juices, along with the aroma of fresh thyme and bay leaves. A sprinkling of a diced ripe tomato and some zesty lemon juice adds the final bright notes to the dish!

The key these tender and juicy meatballs is the addition of moistened bread and not to over-mix the mince mixture. Along with some fresh chives, thyme, garlic, dried oregano, wholegrain mustard, and grated Parmesan, they are little spheres of deliciousness that burst in your mouth!

I recommend that you serve this with plenty of crusty bread, rice or even pasta to savour that amazing sauce – you wouldn’t want to leave a drop behind!

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Ingredients

For the meatballs:

  • 25g fresh white bread, crusts removed and bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1-2 tbsp milk, as needed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • approx. 15g Parmesan, grated
  • approx. 1/4 cup minced fresh chives
  • 5g salt
  • 1-2 tsp wholegrain mustard, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1  egg yolk
  • some fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • some ground black pepper, to taste
  • some runny honey, to taste
  • 200g pork mince

For the broth:

  • 10 fresh mussels
  • 1 snapper head
  • some dry white wine
  • a few springs of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a small pinch of saffron
  • some sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • some runny honey, to taste
  • some fresh lemon juice or apple vinegar, to taste
  • 1 tbsp flour roux
  • 1 tomato, seeded and cut into small cubes
  • some fresh parsley, to garnish

Method

  1. Steam mussels until just opened. Remove the meat from the shell and reserve the mussel juices. Discard the shells.
  2. Heat some oil in a frying pan and pan-fry the snapper head until golden on both sides. De-glaze the pan with white wine and add in the bay leaves, some fresh thyme, saffron and a little water. Simmer for approximately 15 minutes. Reserve the stock and discard the snapper head and aromatics.
  3. In a bowl combine bread with 1 tablespoon of the milk and let stand until bread is completely moist, about 10 minutes. Mash with a spoon to make sure there are no dry spots; if there are dry spots add the rest of the milk.
  4. In a mixing bowl or food processor, combine together all of the meatball ingredients until thoroughly combined. Avoid mixing any more than necessary.
  5. Using wet hands. shape meatball mixture into 8-10 balls.
  6. Over medium-high heat, pan-fry meatballs until golden on all sides. De-glaze the pan with white wine. Add in fresh thyme and simmer until reduced and meatballs are cooked.
  7. Transfer the meatballs onto a plate. Add to the frying pan the reserved fish stock and mussel juices. Taste and adjust seasoning with some salt, black pepper, lemon juice/ apple vinegar and honey as necessary.
  8. Whisk in the flour roux cook gently until sauce is thickened. Return the meatballs and mussels to the pan to re-heat. Stir in the chopped tomato.
  9. Garnish with some fresh parsley and serve immediately.

The Ultimate Lemon Chicken

What to do when life gives you lemons- especially huge juicy, zesty ones? My ultimate lemony, garlicky and herb-y chicken recipe, of course!

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Fresh citrus notes permeates the whole dish as fresh lemon zest is used both in the luscious sauce and marinade. Moist chicken thigh cutlets are marinaded in a mixture of French wholegrain mustard, oregano and thyme, then pan-fried until the skin is crispy in garlic-infused oil. A dash of runny honey right at the end balances the sourness of lemon juice perfectly!

Be sure to serve it with plenty of rice or mashed potatoes for that wonderful lemony sauce! Bon appétit!

Ingredients
  • 10 chicken drumsticks, de-boned
  • 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest (1 teaspoon for rub and 2 teaspoons for sauce)
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (1 tbsp for rub, 1 tbsp for cooking)
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • runny honey, to taste
  • sea salt, to taste
Method
  1. Make rub for chicken. Combine mustard, 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest, oregano, thyme, salt and 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a small bowl. Use fingers to coat chicken on both sides with the mustard rub.
  2. In another bowl combine remaining lemon zest (2 teaspoons), lemon juice and the chicken stock. Set aside.
  3. Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the smashed garlic then cook about 1 minute or until you can smell toasted garlic and the garlic has browned around the edges. Remove and discard the garlic, but leave the oil.
  4. Add chicken, skin-side down into the hot garlic-infused oil and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until the skin has turned golden brown. Flip over and cook until chicken is cooked through. Transfer chicken cutlets on to a plate and cover with aluminium foil.
  5. To the frying pan, add the lemon juice mixture. Bring to a gentle simmer for a few minutes.
  6. In a small bowl, use your fingers to mix butter and flour together, making a dry, crumbly paste. Whisk the flour and butter into the sauce. The sauce will thicken slightly and look glossy.
  7. Add some honey and salt (if required) to balance the flavour of the sauce.
  8. Pour lemon sauce over the chicken cutlets and serve immediately.

Take One: Lemony slow-cooked Squid in White Wine and Balsamic

Fresh squid is not always available at the fishmonger in my area, so when I saw them for sale today I quickly snapped it up and set out to create a dish that is simple to showcase its sweet, sweet flavour of the sea.

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I decided on an Italian theme, using balsamic vinegar, white wine, lemon and honey forming the base of the braising liquid. Sauteed shallots, garlic and carrots gave it a depth of flavour, along with a few bay leaves and thyme. This was slow-cooked in the oven for an hour, filling the kitchen with its delicious aroma. The squid was tender; the vegetables were meltingly soft and full of flavour. The broth was delicious spooned over rice.

For my first attempt, the results were good but the squid released a lot of juices resulting in a thin broth that would benefit from further reduction. I was also surprised to find that the dish lacked a certain umami, even though I used quite a large-sized squid! On my next attempt, I will be sure to add in some mussels/clams and perhaps some fresh tomatoes for an even tastier dish!