A few weeks back was mamma’s 87th birthday and as my kitchen was midway through being renovated, I took the opportunity to go to her place and cook her a seafood feast for lunch. She doesn’t get to eat that much seafood and it is something that she used to cook a lot when my father was alive. I chose to buy fish that was sufficiently celebratory for an 87th birthday lunch for the three of us. For starters I found some scallops on the shell from Hervey Bay in Queensland. They were a bit pricey at $20 for a dozen, but it was such a special occasion, I couldn’t resist buying them and made this recipe with them. For main course I bought a lovely Australian red snapper which the fishmonger cleaned for me as I wanted to bake it whole, something mamma has not made for herself for years.
I based the recipe for the snapper on this one; not only did mamma have all the ingredients, but I especially liked the fact that the fish was baked upright – the video in the link shows you how to do it. It is super easy and ensures that the fish bakes evenly and it looks really festive. To make the dish more substantial, I added layers of sliced potatoes, onions and lemons to the base of the baking pan. Although you don’t eat the lemon slices, they add a delicious zesty flavour and look great in the serving dish. I will definitely make this recipe again – and soon. Mamma loved her birthday lunch – she described it in detail to my sister and her family when we met them later for cake and coffee in town, raving about the “standing up fish”.
Baked whole snapper with chilli and oregano
1.2kg whole snapper, cleaned
2 large Desiree potatoes
1 large brown onion, thinly sliced
1 large lemon, thinly sliced
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 tblsps parsley leaves (approx), extra to serve
Parboil the potatoes for around 20 minutes or until half cooked (the fork should not be able to enter very far into the potatoes). Allow to cool slightly and then thinly slice.
Heat the oven to 200C/380F. Drizzle some olive oil onto the base of a large oven tray. Then place alternate slices of potatoes, onions and lemons in the base of the tray – I made three long rows. Scatter on salt, pepper, half of the oregano and half the parsley leaves. Drizzle on more olive oil. Bake for about 20 minutes (they will still be partially cooked).
In the meantime prepare the fish. In a small bowl, place the rest of the oregano, chilli flakes, the rest of the parsley leaves (finely chopped) and a good pinch of salt. Add enough olive oil so that a paste is formed. Set aside. Now wash and pat-dry the fish. Score the sides of the fish in a criss-cross pattern. Next, scrunch a sheet of aluminium foil about 30 cm (12 inches) long and place it in the cavity of the fish, which should now be able to stand upright. Rub in the paste into the skin of the fish, making sure it goes into the incisions and brush on 3/4 of the oil.
Remove the potatoes from the oven and place a roasting rack over them. Now arrange the fish upright on the rack and place back in the oven (making sure you have moved the oven racks around so that you have enough room). Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes until the flesh is white (this will depend on the size of the fish) and the skin becomes crispy. The potatoes and onions will cook further and might become crispy around the edges. Arrange the cooked fish upright on a serving platter and drizzle on the remaining olive oil. Surround the fish with potatoes, lemon slices and onions, scattering on extra fresh parsley leaves.