Easter Sunday, 2012
Aline's Last Supper
Aline's Last Supper

Time for my cute landlady Aline to ship out to Borneo where she will become intimately familiar with the tops of ancient rainforest and Muslim full-body coverings. Not necessarily in that order. And hopefully not simultaneously.
She celebrated with a roast dinner to say goodbye to all her Edinburgh friends, which oddly, consisted mostly of boiled vegetables.
The food, not her friends. Her friends are quite nice when you get to know them! But then we do have quite a small oven.

We managed a sit-down meal for 11 people only an hour or so behind schedule, though we did have to hijack the spare bedroom for an impromptu dining room. Much to the distress of my new flatmate, who moved in later that evening. Or tried to.
Welcome Carmen!

Enough of Aline's friends are piscatorians to justify trying out my idea for an en Papillote fish with vanilla flavouring which I was very happy with, and seemed generally well received. Pity my photo of the parcel's contents drowning in a pool of watery-looking juices didn't do it justice!
It's a pretty easy dish to make because you can get most of the prep work out of the way well ahead of time - I roasted the tomatoes and made up the tapenade, and the vanilla vodka infusion over a couple of evenings last week. I did have to spend about half an hour de-boning the Dory earlier in the day, which was a lot more trouble than I wanted. Damn those Dory bones - they really hang in there. I think it's worth putting in maximum effort though - I just hate finding a mouthful of bones - it spoils the whole dish.
I cut out the greaseproof paper and foil sheets ahead of time, but I didn't want to make up the packets until just before cooking - I wasn't sure what the (presumably) slightly acidic tomato juices might do to the tin foil if they were sitting around for any length of time.

I was given responsibility for the roast potatoes (successfully crunchy) and the roast parsnips (not-so-crunchy), and Aline took charge of everything else. See here for details She did a terrific job of timing it all, despite being hindered by the oven going out two or three times. Not sure what's going on there!
Aline also wanted a special mention for her hard-working and long-suffering! KP Des who did an excellent job of peeling and chopping all the veg and nuts - thanks Des!

Our dodgy oven might explain the slightly disappointing nut roast Yes - nut roast! Apparently vegetarians really do eat the stuff! which was a bit soggy, and then a bit burnt from its rescue grilling. Either it was the oven thing, or it was including rather too much vegetables, or it was mixing it up too early and leaving it sitting around for too long.
Pity, because it was actually quite tasty. For a nut roast :)

Happy Trails Aline!

The Roasts
John Dory en Papillote with Vanilla Vodka
Nut Roast
Crunchy Roast Potatoes
Not So Crunchy Roast Parsnips
Roast in a lot of (peanut) oil in a bread tin due to lack of space - they were tasty but greasy. And not much crunchy.
Sweet and Spicy Mash
Matchstick carrots with thyme and honey
Cut up your carrots, boil them, then dress with thyme, honey and olive oil (or butter - if you aren't intolerant).
Boiled New potatoes with mint
Boil your new potatoes, drain, season with salt and torn mint leaves and more olive oil.
Steamed broccoli
Vegetarian Gravy

John Dory en Papillote with Vanilla Vodka
main fish
John Dory fillets en papillote with roast tomatoes and vanilla infused vodka sauce
I decided to have a go at developing a Rick Stein recipe by replacing the basil flavouring with vanilla, and thought I might use vodka to extract more essence from the vanilla pods. I suppose you might be able to use vodka that you've just had steeping with vanilla pods for a while, rather than cooking it as I did, but I'm not sure you'd get the same intensity of vanilla flavour.
I was slightly worried that the vanilla might be too overpowering, but that didn't seem to be a problem, despite turning the sauce quite dark with the extracted vanilla oils.

Serves 4

For the oven-roasted tomatoes:

Pre-heat the oven to 240°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9.
Cut the tomatoes in half and place them cut-side up in a lightly oiled shallow roasting tin. Sprinkle over the sea-salt flakes, thyme leaves and some pepper and roast for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2 and roast them for a further 1½-2 hours until shrivelled to about half their original size and concentrated in flavour.
Remove and leave to cool.
These will keep for several days covered in the fridge.

Make the tapenade.

For the vodka infusion:
I wanted an intensely vanilla flavoured sauce with a hint of vodka to it, and I thought that vodka would be a more effective substrate for the vanilla oils than just using stock. It occurs to me that possibly the best way to make this would be to put the vanilla pods in the vodka (and possibly some stock) cover tightly with cling-film and cook in a steamer to extract the flavour.
You could then dilute it with a little stock if you liked. A reduced seafood stock would probably be really nice - I used vegetable stock since I had some already made up.
But here is what I did:
Slit open the vanilla pods and cut them in half (or quarters). Put them a small pan with a glass or so of vodka, and warm gently while mashing the pods with a fork. Add stock as the vodka evaporates (careful not to burn the house down).
When the pods seem softened and and a delicious aroma of vanilla has been released (and the sauce has started to darken), remove from the heat, add another good dose of vodka, cover tightly with cling film and leave to infuse overnight in the fridge.
You should end up with about 6 tablespoons or so.

Raise the oven temperature to 240°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9 again.

Prepare the paper and foil parcels:
Cut out four 38cm (15 inch) squares of greaseproof paper and foil. Put the foil squares on top of the paper ones and brush the centres with olive oil. Season the pieces of fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Scrape the skin from 3 roasted tomato halves and possibly cut them up a little too? and put them slightly off-centre on each one, top with the pieces of seasoned fish, drizzle over a tablespoon or two of the vodka infusion.

Bring the other side of the square over the fish so that all the edges meet. Starting at one of the opening, fold over about 1 cm (½ inch) of the edge, doing about 4 cm (1½ inches) at a time. Work your way all around the edge to make a semi-circular parcel. Then go around again to make an even tighter seam.

Give the folded edge a good bash with a rolling pin.

Cook the fish:
Put the parcels on to a baking sheet and bake in a very hot oven at 240°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9 for 15 minutes.

As the fish cooks, the steaming juices will make the tightly sealed parcels puff up. Remove them from the oven, quickly transfer them to a warmed serving dish and take them to the table.

Slit open the parcels at the table with the tip of a knife, so that everyone can enjoy the aroma.
Pull back the paper and foil from the baked fish.
Lift the fish and tomatoes on to 4 warmed plates and pour over the cooking juices from the parcel. Spoon around a little tapenade and serve.
Absolutely gorgeous I have to say. And the tapenade really complements the dish.
I was going to go with hake fillets, but the ones in the fishmongers looked a bit skinny and wet, so at her suggestion I went with some nice fat Dory fillets instead. They were very delicate, though perhaps a tiny bit gelatinous to be the ideal choice here. They're also real bastards to de-bone. The tiny needle bones just don't want to come out and I did end up cutting one of the fillets in half so I could slice the bones (and lose a little section of fish) out of the middle.
You could try hake, cod, haddock, whiting or maybe sea bream or sea bass?

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