Whole snapper baked on potatoes with wilted spinach

Whole snapper baked on potatoes and capsicum, with Catalan wilted spinach.
Whole snapper baked on potatoes and capsicum, with Catalan wilted spinach. 

Cooking a whole fish is a fantastic way of feeding a large group and it is a lot easier then it looks. By cooking fish on the bone, the flesh retains much more moisture than when it is filleted, and it remains at a beautiful serving temperature for longer. The succulent flakes of fish also draw flavour from the bones during this process. I like to use small snappers for this dish, but you can use red emperor or any large, white-fleshed fish and just cook it for longer. The bed of potato and vegetables absorbs any cooking juices, which make the potatoes even tastier. In fact, the potatoes are my favourite part of this dish, as they take on the intense flavour of the stock and wine and the richness of the fish.


210ml extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, firmly packed

5 garlic cloves

4 x 500g whole snapper, cleaned and scaled

1 1/2kg brown onions, finely sliced

2 red capsicums, seeded and finely sliced

2 green capsicums, seeded and finely sliced

7 bay leaves

fine sea salt

4 lemons, sliced

200ml fish stock

4 waxy potatoes (such as Nicola), sliced in

5mm rounds

3 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

100ml white wine

sea salt flakes to sprinkle

For Catalan wilted spinach

80g pine nuts

500g baby spinach leaves

120g raisins

200ml Pedro Ximenez sherry

125ml extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

sea salt flakes



For fish:

In a blender, puree 60ml of olive oil, parsley and two large garlic cloves, season to taste and set aside. Remove the fish fins and spines with a pair of kitchen scissors. Rinse fish under cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Heat 80ml of olive oil in a large frying pan over low-medium heat.

Finely chop remaining three garlic cloves and cook with onion, capsicums, three bay leaves and a pinch of salt for 15-20 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Put the fish in a large bowl with several pinches of sea salt and the garlic and parsley paste and rub all over.

Season the cavity of each fish with salt, a few slices of lemon and a bay leaf. Drizzle a little olive oil into a large baking tray, then spread about a quarter of the onion mixture over it. Pour the fish stock over, put potato on top then season.

Lay the remaining onion mix over the potato, sprinkle with tomato pieces and most of the remaining lemon slices and season again. Place fish on top and dress with remaining lemon slices.

Drizzle white wine and the remaining olive oil over the fish. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the fish flakes when tested with a fork. Remove the fish and place on a plate, cover with foil and keep warm.

Cover the baking tray with foil and return to oven for 15 minutes, or until the potato is soft. Make a bed of the baked vegetable mix on four warm plates and place a snapper on each. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes and serve.

For spinach:

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Place the pine nuts on a baking tray lined with baking paper and roast for five minutes or until lightly golden.

Wash and dry the spinach in a large stainless steel bowl. Soak the raisins in the sherry in a small bowl.

Heat the olive oil in a frypan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring regularly, for two to three minutes or until golden. Pour hot oil and garlic over the spinach and mix well with tongs.

Add the raisin mixture and lemon juice and season with salt. Toss to combine. Set aside for 15 minutes, tossing the dressing through the leaves every five minutes. Check the seasoning, add pine nuts and serve.