Thursday, 10 July 2008

Psari Plaki - or Mary Queen of Cods!

When Peter the Greek of Kalafogas fame posted this beautiful baked fish dish last week I dribbled and drooled, stumbled and tagged as I so frequently do - and it entered the voluminous bank of 'recipes to make' that I have been cultivating for the last year or two.

But the next day when I went to pick up a piece of fish for a healthy post-Ibiza dinner, it popped back into my mind - so instead of the skate wings I picked up a beautiful whole cod instead! (I love my fishmonger - check out this 3lb beauty - for less than a fiver!!)

So Peter's dish is Ψάρι πλακί (did I pronounce that right Peter?? ;) or Psari Plaki - basically fish baked with tomatoes and olive oil (some sites say tomatoes and potatoes, others tomatoes with herbs or various veggies - but tomatoes are the constant.) Baked in the oven, and served with a load of crusty bread for mopping up the juices, how could I resist!?

So I trudged home with my huge cod (after making some phonecalls to ensure I'd have company to eat with!) and visited the bakers and greengrocers for the rest of my ingredients.

Peter's recipe specifies Cubanelle peppers. Now I wasn't too sure what those were, but he pointed me towards any sweet, thin-skinned pepper - the flavour of the dish would be overwhelmed by using bell peppers here.

The guy in the shop didn't know what these peppers were called, but they were thin-skinned and sweet - and worked perfectly!

Peter also recommended using old floury potatoes - not waxy or new. But decent old potatoes are not the easiest thing to find in England in July. So instead I reverted to one of my old favourites - Cyprus potatoes. A hint of waxiness, though not too much so, I thought these worked really well. They were creamy and smooth, and just falling apart enough to give some real body to the sauce.

But, anyway, back to the tale!

I got myself home and started laying out the kitchen, and quickly realised something. A 3lb fish is really, really big. Way too big to fit in any of my oven dishes.

There was only one thing to be done...


A hack, snip and a crack later, and we have it - behold Mary, Queen of Cods!

I'm not going to go into the detail of how I prepared the plaki - I followed Peter's recipe - and a lovely simple one it was too. I used fresh oregano from my garden, and I think I may have thrown in an extra tomato. Because it goes against my nature to do exactly what I'm told!

So anyway, the tatties and veg were layered in, the headless fish snuggled down amongst them, and the paprika olive oil slurry poured on top. I was about to put it in the oven... when I noticed Mary gazing forlornly from the counter with her one visible eye. There seemed to be such a lot of flavour going to waste in that beautful big fishy head.

The cats were at my feet looking hopeful. But I had plans to reunite Mary to her body...

Yeah, that'll do it!

I've no idea whether that added anything to the flavour - but it amused me so she stayed.

So (bear with me - I'm almost done) fifty minutes later, out she came from the oven. The smell was fabulous!

For me, the hardest bit of the whole thing was the carving (do you still call it carving for a fish?!) Lifted the fish out of the dish was a challenge. Then trying to remove skin and bones without destroying the fish?? Difficult to say the least! Half of my plates had skin-on fillets - the other half had skinless cod flakes. It was all polished off in record time though - with mountains of softly chewy white bread with a crisp, light crust. Absolutely beautiful, thank you for a fabulous recipe Peter. I do believe I'm going to start a new tag: 'recipes to make... again'!

Psari Plaki-ttie

I'm sending this over to Ruth for her weekly Bookmarked Recipes event. It's my first entry!

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glamah16 said...

You know I was just thinking of buying fish for the grill tonight. The cutting off of the head freaks me out a little. Then you prop it up! But its a reat lloking fish dish. Im sure you and the guests enjoyed it.

Peter M said...

Kittie, the final plating of the fish looks so appetizing. You did a bang-up job and I thank you for having faith in my dishes.

Have I offered drinks on me yet? lol

giz said...

Very adventurous of you - other than the head (which totally creeps me out) the dish looks amazing - and you got the Peter seal of approval. There is peace in the land

kittie said...

Lol coco, at least I took the head away before I served up ;)

Peter - Yay, glad you approve. Thanks again for the recipe! Drinks? Anytime!

Giz - I think that's the closest I've stuck to a recipe in a long time. But it was well worth it!!

Dee said...

Haha, nice title :)

5 quid is a great price for cod; it's I think it's something like 20 ringgit (erm, 3 quid?) per 100g here :( I don't think Cubanelle's exist here *sigh*

I'll just pretend I'm joining you for dinner, or you could mail me a taste.

Fearless Kitchen said...

I envy you your fishmonger... this looks great. I liked the head on the platter too!

Helen said...

Ha ha - what a beast! Peter's recipes are wonderfully simple aren't they? You definitely did it justice. You made me laugh with the head...

Lore said...

This was a great dish to offer to your guests, so I'm sure it was all worth it (including the part where you had to cut off the head).

kittie said...

dee - we need to invent scratch and sniff blogging!!! :D

fearless - I'm glad someone else liked it too!

lol, it amused me too Helen, hence the daft photos ;)

lore - very worth it - a great dinner party dish!!

Ruth Elkin said...

I'm well impressed! This sounds absolutely delicious and full of flavour! Also I'm not brave enough to cook a whole fish yet! Someday though!

Thanks for sending this into bookmarked recipes!

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I've never tried doing a whole fish yet but would really like to. It looks like you did a beautiful job with it!

Heather said...

Simply gorgeous! I think that pepper was a banana pepper. I really can't get over how delicious that looks. :P

kittie said...

ruth - baking a whole fish is easy... get the fishmonger to lop the head off if you don't need or want it!

Mike - this was the biggest whole fish I've ever cooked - I think I need a bigger fish slice!

Thanks Heather - I think you could be right!