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PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 August, 2011, 12:00am


En papillote is a French method of cooking food in an envelope made of parchment paper. Trapped in the parcel, the ingredients steam but flavours remain bright and concentrated. When other cooking techniques are used, tastes can be muted.

Fish en papillote with lemon-kalamata olive butter and tomato-basil concasse (pictured)

This dish, by food stylist Tomoko Inamura, is based on a recipe in Fabulous Parties: Food and Flowers for Elegant Entertaining by Mark Held, Richard David and Peggy Dark. Concasseis a term that usually refers to peeled, chopped tomatoes.

4 fish fillets (sea bass, snapper or sole), about 200 grams each

Olive oil, for brushing

8 sprigs of thyme, savoury or chervil

1 egg, whisked with 15ml cold water

Rough-flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 30cm by 30cm sheets of parchment paper

Lemon wedges

For the lemon-kalamata butter:

115 grams unsalted butter

1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest

50 grams pitted kalamata olives

2 tbsp thyme or savoury, finely minced

For the tomato-basil concasse

15ml olive oil

1/2 medium-sized yellow onion, chopped

325 grams ripe, sweet tomatoes

70 grams capers, drained

Large handful of fresh basil, finely chopped

Prepare the lemon-kalamata olive butter. Pat dry the olives with paper towels then chop. Put the olives, butter, lemon zest and thyme or savoury into a food processor and pulse until throughly combined. Shape into a block, wrap in a double layer of cling-film and refrigerate.

For the tomato-basil concasse bring a pot of water to the boil. Cut an X through the skin at the base of the tomatoes, place them in the boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, strip off the skin. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds, then dice. Heat the olive oil in a skillet, add the onion and cook over a low flame until translucent. Transfer the onion to a bowl, add the tomato and capers, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Gently mix in the basil.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Fold the parchment paper in half and cut out a large half circle, leaving it intact at the seam, then unfold the paper. Brush each fish fillet with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Put a piece of fish on a sheet of paper, on the right side of the seam, then add two heaped teaspoons each of the lemon-kalamata butter and the tomato-basil concasse Top each piece of fish with two sprigs of herbs. Fold over the other side of the parchment circle to cover the fish. Beginning at one end of the half-circle, tightly fold the two edges of the paper over each other to seal. When you reach the other end of the half-circle, twist the paper tightly to secure it. Put the parchment parcels on a large baking sheet, brush the surface with egg wash and place in the oven. Immediately lower the heat to 180 degrees and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the parchment is puffed and golden brown. Put the parcels on plates and serve, slicing them open to release the aromas. Add a little more lemon-kalamata butter and serve with lemon wedges.

Mixed vegetables en papillote

When cooking en papillote, all the ingredients should take about the same amount of time to cook to avoid serving any underdone or soggy food. For this dish, the potatoes need to be simmered first until almost tender and the asparagus should be blanched briefly.

8 fingerling potatoes, about 4cm long

12 pencil-thin asparagus spears, cut into 3cm lengths

80 grams fresh peas (or frozen petits pois)

1 small zucchini, about 8cm long

4 yellow pattypan squash

8 small (about 2cm in diameter) button mushrooms, quartered

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 garlic clove, minced

Finely grated zest of one lemon

60 grams pesto

Melted butter, for brushing the parchment

Fine sea salt and freshly ground

black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Put the potatoes in a pan and add water to cover. Add salt (the water should taste quite salty) then bring to the boil over a high flame. Lower the heat and simmer for about five minutes, or until they are cooked through but still firm. Remove the potatoes from the water and drain. Bring the same water back to the boil, add the asparagus and blanch for about 30 seconds, then drain. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, then slice into pieces about 5mm thick. Do the same to the pattypan squash. Put the vegetables, garlic, lemon zest and pesto in a large bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix well. Prepare four parchment paper circles as in the first recipe. Divide the vegetables between the circles, mounding them on one side of the paper. Secure the parchment packets as in the first recipe and place on a baking sheet. Brush the tops of the packets with melted butter. Bake at 200 degrees for 15 minutes, or until puffed and medium brown. Slice open the packets at the table.

Styling Tomoko Inamura