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Baked Snapper with black bean butter

As with meat and poultry fish tastes so much sweeter when it’s cooked whole. Baking it ‘en-papilotte’ – in a paper or foil parcel – is the best way to do this as it seals in all the juices and flavour and keeps the fish lovely and moist. The added benefit is that the bag puffs up dramatically in the oven and looks really impressive when you take it to the table. This method does work best in an oven, although you can do it in a barbeque with hood. Just remember not to have any heat directly beneath the fish parcel.

Whole snapper are ideal baking fish. In this recipe the fish is married with Asian flavours – ginger and fermented black beans, whose strong saltiness is mellowed out beautifully by the butter, herbs and natural juices. It’s one of my all-time-favourite dishes (and it also works for snapper filets if that’s what you’d prefer).


900g snapper, cleaned and scaled
freshly ground black pepper
100g butter, cubed
200g snow-pea shoots
3 spring onions
1 tablespoon finely sliced ginger
3 tablespoons roughly chopped coriander (stalks and leaves)
a few thin slices of small red chilli (optional)
a few drops of sesame oil (or ¼ teaspoon toasted sesame seeds)
lime wedges to serve

  • Preheat the oven to 200ºC and lightly oil a large baking tray.
  • Use a sharp knife to make slashes on either side of the fish and season the cuts generously with salt and pepper.
  • Cut sheets of baking paper large enough to wrap around the fish and lay it out on your work surface. Smear a little of the butter onto the paper, then scatter on the snow-pea shoots. Sit the fish on top and cover with the remaining ingredients and the rest of the butter. Wrap the paper around the fish and fold the ends to seal. Now wrap this package in a double layer of foil and lift onto the prepared tray.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes, by which time the fish should be cooked and the bag should be all puffed up (a very thick fish may take a few minutes more). Open the parcel at the table to release the lovely aromas. Serve with lime wedges.