Fish Plaki • Psari Plaki
By now surely you will have found a good fishmonger! The systematic speed at our fish counters is amazing…the fish is always shopped for as caught, smelling of the sea, never prepared…but I still like to go to my independent fishmonger in Larnaca both for the banter, a catch up, and yet another lesson in preparing fish. I tend not to catch on!
Cooking ‘Plaki’ means with wine and tomatoes. This is such a simple dish, but it tastes utterly exquisite. You can prepare it in advance up to the cooking stage then keep in the fridge until you are ready to cook. Add five minutes or so onto the cooking time if starting from chilled.
1kg of fresh fish (whole sea
bream or sea bass, or halibut,
cod or tuna steaks)
3 tbsp of olive oil
1 large lemon
1 large onion, sliced
2-3 plump garlic cloves, crushed
400g can of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp of freshly chopped parsley
1 tsp of fennel seeds or crushed
½ glass (100ml) of retsina
salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 190°C /Gas 5.
If the fish is whole scale and clean. Arrange the fish snugly in an oiled baking or roasting dish. Sprinkle generously with salt, freshly ground pepper and the juice from half the lemon.
Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan, add the onion and crushed garlic and cook over a medium heat until the onion is soft and transparent, taking care not to burn the garlic. Now stir in the tomatoes, parsley, crushed seeds and retsina. Cook the sauce for a few minutes then season with salt and pepper.
Pour the sauce over the fish. Cut the remaining lemon into thin slices, arrange on top of the fish. Cover the dish with foil and bake in the centre of the oven for about 40-45 minutes for whole fish, 25-30 minutes for steaks or until flesh flakes easily
Serve the fish in the sauce straight from the dish with lots of fresh bread to wipe clean the plates.
Retsina (Ρετσίνα in Greek) is a Greek white, sometimes rosé resinated wine that has been made for 2000 years. Its unique flavour is said to have originated from the ancient practice of sealing wine vessels, particularly amphorae, with Aleppo pine resin. Before the invention of impermeable glass bottles, oxygen caused many wines to spoil within the year. Pine resin helped keep air out while at the same time infusing the wine with resin aroma. Modern Retsina is made following the same winemaking techniques of white wine or rosé with the exception that small pieces of pine resin are added to the must during fermentation, to give the wine it’s distinct flavour that you either love or hate.
For me it brings back memories of travelling around the Greek islands on a low budget and Retsina was the only wine we could afford!