Many of my readers will be aware that Nick and I travelled to Mexico last year to attend the wedding of our good friends Adam and Iliana. Now Iliana is a woman after my own heart – she loves food and she loves to cook. I mean, this is a woman who goes home to Mexico and returns with an extra suitcase – full of food! There is an entire cupboard in her London kitchen devoted only to foods carted back from home, halfway around the world. And I was astonished when she served up chicken mole and told me that the sauce was in fact made by her mother, frozen back home in Mexico and carried over to London while slowly defrosting in her hand luggage. Now that’s what I call dedication!
So whenever she and Adam come over to dinner, we always try to do somethign a little bit special, and last Friday was no exception. The weather has been pretty good lately and for a wild moment we thought we coudl barbecue, but the night in question was a little windy, so that was out. However, it still wasn’t really cold, so I wasn’t in the mood for anything heavy… What to make, what to make?? Plus, seeing as it was Friday night, whatever I made would have to materialise in between getting home from work and the guests arriving at about 8, so not much time for fiddly stuff.
After a bit of a think and a bit of a scratch through my recipe notebook I decided on haddock and Parma ham parcels. Simple, yet stylish, and light. The original recipe calls for hake, but seeing as hake is all but unavailable at my local supermarket, haddock it was (the unsmoked variety) – although you can use any firm white fish. The other bonus about this dish is that it needs minimal preparation: you wrap each piece of fish in ham, you brush it with olive oil and leave it in the fridge for the flavour to develop, and then you oven bake it while you are having your hors d’ouvre. Perfect.
And to start, I made my old standby of griddled slices of halloumi cheese served warm on a bed of rocket with red onion marmalade. What could be easier – or more deilcious!
HADDOCK AND PARMA HAM PARCELS
1 portion of firm white fish fillet per person (skinless) – cod, unsmoked haddock, hake etc.
2-3 slices of Prosciutto (or similar cured ham) per fish portion
1 fresh basil leaf per portion (optional)
If using, place a basil leaf on each piece of fish. Season with black pepper (I do not use salt as the Prosciutto is already salty enough)
Wrap each piece of fish in 2-3 strips of ham, making a neat parcel. Brush each parcel with a little olive oil (I also sprayed a little into the dish that I baked them in to prevent sticking) and place in the fridge for at least an hour to allow flavours to develop.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and place bake the fish in an oven-proof dish for about 20 minutes or until done. Turn on the top grill for the last few minutes to get the ham a little crispy.
Serve with carbs of your choice and green vegetables. I served it a few months ago with brown rice and green beans drizzled with vinaigrette; and more recently with asparagus briefly pan-fried with olive oil; and new potatoes, par-cooked and finished in the pan with olive oil, loads of garlic, and sprinkled with lemon juice and fleur de sel.